By Courtney Trenwith
Massive boom in aviation demand in the kingdom also sees two new airlines approved
Saudi Arabia is planning to expand five of its domestic airports, with tenders worth millions expected to be filled by early next year, state media have reported.
The kingdom’s aviation industry is booming due to increases in population, wealth and business.
To help cope with the rapid increase in demand, the kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has approved Qatar Airways to begin operating domestic flights, under the name Al Maha Airways, from the first half of 2014.
It also has approved a fourth Saudi operator, Saudi Gulf Airlines, which will be based in the east-coast city of Dammam and initially offer domestic services before expanding internationally.
Airports will be upgraded in Jazan, Abha, both in the west of the kingdom, Qassim, located in the centre, Arar and Jouf, both in the north.
GACA chairman Khaled Al Khaibari said contractors had been short-listed.
Work on the first airport, Jazan, would include more than quadrupling the operational area and should begin early next year, followed by Arar and Jouf airports, he said.
The number of passengers at Jouf airport is expected to soar from 175,000 presently to 1m after the expansion.
“Financial credits have been approved to embark on expanding Jazan, and work is expected to start in the first quarter of next year,” Al Kahibari said.
Arar airport will increase from 1,810sqm to 7,560sqm, while capacity will grow from 100,000 to 518,000 passengers.
Prince Naif Airport in Qassim capacity will double from the existing 750,000 to 1.5m passengers.
Abha Regional Airport, which will grow eight-fold, will be implemented in two phases, with the first increasing capacity to 3.5m passengers, then to 5m.
Saudi Arabia has 27 airports, four of them international.