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The busiest passenger airport in the region by some margin, and thirteenth in the world last year, was Dubai International. The airport now has three terminals: one dedicated to Emirates, another used by Flydubai and one used by all other airlines. The airport was named best in the Middle East and third best large airport in the world in ACI’s 2010 Airport Service Quality awards.
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The gateway to the Land of the Pharaohs handled more than 16 million passengers in 2010, growth of 12.2% year on year. The airport has received a welcome revamp in recent years with the opening of Terminal 3 in 2009, which added capacity of 11 million passengers to the airport. The refurbishment of Terminal 2 and the construction of a new runway, hotels and ATC building continues.
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King Khalid International Airport is Saudi Arabia’s busiest airport. It features two parallel runways and has three operational passenger terminals, one of them dedicated to the flag carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines.
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Driven by the growth of Etihad, Abu Dhabi International crossed the ten million passenger mark for the first time in 2010. A reported US $7 billion has been budgeted for the ongoing development of the airport, which will take capacity to 20 million passengers per year by 2015.
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Bahrain International Airport is the main airport for traffic in and out of Bahrain and is the home airport of Gulf Air and Bahrain Air. Expansion work began in 2006 with the creation of new car parks, retail facilities security infrastructure and aircraft parking bays. Further work is also planned, which would see the addition of two new terminals and a tripling of annual passenger capacity to around 27 million.
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The Sinai area’s continuing popularity with Western tourists means that passenger traffic at Sharm El Sheikh keeps on growing. Another terminal, with a budget of around US $350 million, is in the pipeline, which would bring capacity to 15 million passengers per year.
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Kuwait International is the home base of Jazeera Airways, Kuwait Airways and, until its bankruptcy in March, Wataniya Airways. Between 1999 and 2001, a terminal was expanded and car parking and retail space was added to the airport. Another terminal opened in 2008 and further expansion work will increase capacity to 20 million passengers per year.
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A city purpose built for tourism on Egypt’s Red Sea coast is the home of the third Egyptian airport on this list. Traffic grew substantially in 2010 after a recessionary fall of 0.2% in 2009.The airport has one terminal, but a new one, along with another runway, is under construction.
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An anchor airline, in this case Air Arabia, can transform the fortunes of an airport. Although long established as an air freight hub, the low cost carrier has helped Sharjah emerge as a major passenger airport. The aviation authority has already renovated the airport’s arrival and departure areas, and an Air Arabia branded hotel and new AED 500 million runway are on the way.
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The fastest growing airport in the top ten is Muscat, which saw passenger throughout increase 26.2% in 2010. In an effort to maintain the momentum, the airport is being expanded and revamped. A new terminal with the ability to process 12 million passengers annually should open in 2014 and a new control tower and second runway will also be built. If growth continues beyond that point, officials have said there is a blueprint to take capacity as high as 48 million passengers by 2050.