Endless queues, fraught passengers and general chaos. Anyone who has ever travelled into Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) will know that it can be a more stressful experience than most. And no-one knows that more than Kjeld Binger, chief executive of Airport International Group (AIG).
“Our existing terminal has a capacity of three to 3.5 million passengers but we’re operating more than 6 million passengers a year now so you can imagine how old and cramped the old terminal is and how exposed we are for all sorts of issues [such as] queuing, bad quality, timing etc,” he tells Arabian Business.
Lucky for regional travellers, long delays at QAIA are likely to become far less frequent when AIG officially opens its new terminal in February. Phase one of the extension, part of a $850m upgrade for a consortium of investors, will boost passenger capacity to 7 million annually, eliminating the queues and marking a new era in Jordan’s tourism plans.
AIG, an Amman-based consortium comprising six companies including Abu Dhabi-based Invest AD, Kuwaiti investment firm Noor Financial Investments Company and Greek construction company J&O-Avax SA, was awarded the 25-year build-operate-transfer agreement in 2007. Under the terms of the agreement, the Jordanian government will retain ownership of the airport and receives 54.4 percent of gross revenues for the first six years and 54.6 percent for the remainder of the agreement.
While phase one — which includes seven free-boarding bridges and seven remote-boarding gates — is slated for completion early next year, phase two will add a further seven fixed-boarding bridges to the terminal, boosting total capacity to nine million annually. AIG expects the additional capacity to be met through both Jordan’s traditional tourism markets, such as Europe and new geographical territories in China and Eastern Europe. The firm, he adds, is already in talks with Europe’s second-largest low-cost carrier, easyJet, which launched its three-times-a-week Gatwick-Amman service last year.
“For the time being, Europe is a bit depressed [but] I truly believe that there are great opportunities for us to develop new routes from Europe to Amman especially in the low-cost segment. EasyJet is now serving Amman from Gatwick and we have a constant relationship and developing relationship with easyJet and we are discussing certain possibilities from other destinations in the network,” he says.
“I do believe that we have a region towards the east, which is quite interesting also. The former Soviet countries in my opinion [are] fast-growing areas with fast-growing demand for travel, we have China — I see China as a potential in the near future and of course the rest of Asia is a potential,” he adds.
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