By Andy Sambidge
Saudi Arabia seen struggling to cope with passenger increase despite airport plans.
Investment in the GCC's civil aviation sector is expected to total more than $45bn over the next five years, according to new research.
The UAE is seen leading the way with its new Jebel Ali Airport project expected to expand the country’s capacity by 120 million passengers, Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) said. It said the UAE's total investments to 2014 were likely to be $22.3bn, with Qatar spending $14bn and Saudi Arabia $5.3bn.
Its report said that while many international airports have seen steady or decelerating growth in air passenger traffic, the GCC - and particularly the UAE - has seen a growth of 13 percent between 2002-2008.
Qatar has also bucked the global decline with 25 percent growth over the same period and now accounts for nearly 15 percent of GCC air passenger traffic, compared to just 7 percent in 2002.
Markaz said total GCC passenger traffic grew at a annual rate of 10 percent between 2002-2008 to 126m and this is expected to more than double by 2014 by 278m.
The report said the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar had become the regional leaders by adopting and open skies policy which had played a "key role in the development of the tourism industry in these countries".
According to MEED, there are currently more than $50bn worth of aviation infrastructure projects in the Middle East, planned to cater to rising passenger traffic and freight demand on regional airports.
However, the global financial crisis has impacted the regional aviation sector, the report added, with air passenger traffic for the Middle East growing by just 7 percent in 2008, a sharp deceleration from the 18 percent growth seen in 2007.
The report said that the GCC ran at a capacity utilisation rate of 92 percent in 2008, with four countries clocking rates of more than 100 percent - illustrating the need for expansion.
Doha International Airport is currently operating at a 150 percent rate but Markaz said it expected to rate to drop to around 80 percent over the next five years "as new capacity comes on line in addition to a deceleration in air passenger growth in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain".
But it said that Saudi Arabia could still struggle to cope with the number of passengers it serves, suggesting that even proposed expansions at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah by 2014 will fail to meet demand.
According to Zawya Projects, there are also more than $580m worth of airport expansion plans in the kingdom, but most are targeted at the smaller domestic and regional airports.
It seems that front page news is almost always regarding aviation, airports, carrier wars and air travel. I guess this is really the hub for air travel. The United Air Hub Emirates.