China claimed a new record for world’s highest airport when Daocheng Yading Airport opened this week in the Tibetan province of Sichuan, taking the title from Changdu Bangda Airport, also in Tibet. The new airport is at an elevation of 14,472 feet above sea level, 253 feet higher than the previous record holder. There is a single Air China flight scheduled for now, from Chengdu, with additional domestic flights planned in the coming year. The flight cuts travel time from the provincial capital from a two-day bus ride to a one-hour flight. The airport is close to the Yading Nature Reserve, known as the last Shangri-La. Daocheng shouldn’t rest on its laurels long, as Nagqu Dagring is planning an airport to open in 2015 at an altitude of 14,554 feet.
The airport is controversial, as part of China’s plan to increase tourism in Tibet, which Tibetans feel deepens Chinese rule on the autonomous region. China also opened the world’s highest railway in Tibet in 2006, much of it on permafrost, which many felt would threaten the local environment and culture.