Seeking to secure its place as a transportation hub, Hong Kong opened a futuristic, $20 billion airport Monday after a nostalgic farewell to old and overcrowded Kai Tak.
Overnight, a small army of workers moved 1,300 vehicles and 16 barges of equipment, as well as 31 aircraft, from the old airport to the new.The transition was a bit rough. Computer glitches caused some delays in baggage-handling and flight information displays and some passengers reportedly had to wait up to three hours to disembark.
But officials said they were fixing the bugs as they cropped up, and pronounced themselves generally satisfied.
Compared to the rocky start of another new Asian airport in Kuala Lumpur, the move was a morale booster for Hong Kong. The territory is suffering from a loss of its traditionally strong self-confidence as it slides along with much of Asia into recession.
The largest construction project in Hong Kong history is set on two small, flattened islands and reclaimed land 22 miles from the city.
Chek Lap Kok airport is "an outstanding achievement, and proof yet again that Hong Kong's can-do spirit is alive and well," Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said.
The airport's eight-level terminal, with a metal, wing-like roof, is one of the biggest enclosed spaces in the world at 6 million square feet. A suspension bridge, an express highway and a railway take travelers to the remote airport.
Glass walls offer views of mountains, a glimpse of the ocean and plenty of sunlight.