Bahrain International Airport (BIA) is aiming to boost its capacity by 50 percent as part of its expansion plans over the next four years, the airport's management announced on Monday.
Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), which is wholly owned by the country's sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, announced engineering firm Dar Al Handasah had been awarded the BD4.4m ($11.6m) design contract for the expansion project.
This initial phase is expected to take nine months to complete and Dar Al Handasah will also oversee the construction phase of the project.
Once complete in 2015, the expansion will see the airport's capacity boosted by 50 percent from the current nine million passengers a year to 13.5 million.
The investment will see the size of the airport increase by an additional 40,000 square metres and will include up to five more airport gates and 40 additional check-in counters.
"The plans we are initiating for an expanded international airport are essential to Bahrain's continued development, not only in providing businesses in Bahrain with the access they demand for the future, but also in bolstering the growing aviation and logistics industry in the kingdom," said BAC's Chairman, Khalid Al Rumaihi.
The Gulf island state's aviation sector has come under strain as it attempts to recover from the impact of the ongoing political unrest in the country.
Last month, Gulf Air, Bahrain's loss-making national carrier, confirmed it had sacked 200 staff amid a 25 percent plunge in bookings.
The employees were fired for 'unjustified absenteeism', defined as taking more than 10 days off work without a value reason. Half appealed the decision internally and 11 were reinstated.
"All dismissals followed the individual review of each case by established internal committees," the airline said in a statement.
The 200 employees laid off represent around five percent of the 3,884 staff employed at the flag carrier at the end of April 2011.
The airline has been badly hit by the unrest that has dominated the island state since February, leaving at least 29 people dead following bloody clashes between security forces and protesters.
Bahrain imposed martial law in March, calling in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries to quash the protests.
The carrier was forced to suspend flights to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and issue refunds when the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix was postponed.
"Due to the situation in the region as a whole as well as the Kingdom of Bahrain, Gulf Air witnessed a 25 percent drop in bookings in the first five months of 2011," the airline said.
However, the announcement of the expansion of the airport demonstrates the authorities' long-term commitment to Bahrain's aviation sector.
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