By Courtney Trenwith
The elevated status of Al Ahsa Airport is expected to take passengers from Damman, Bahrain, Qatar airports
Saudi Arabia will soon have its fifth international airport, with Al Ahsa set to compete for Bahraini and Qatari traffic, according to Arab News.
The Al Ahsa Airport, which presently operates only two to four flights per week, was given international status by the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority, GACA, in 2011.
It has since been working on the required upgrade, including adding immigration and customs controls, expanding aircraft parking facilities and the terminal, which were nearly completed, a source told Arab News.
Situated in the city of Al Hofuf in Eastern Province, the airport is in close proximity to Bahrain and Qatar, as well as the UAE, although it is also less than two hours from Damman, a major Saudi city which also has an international airport.
Presently Saudi Arabian Airlines operates two flights a week to Riyadh and Jeddah, which is doubled during the summer.
Much of the new demand is expected to come from the nearby Ghawar oil field, the world’s largest conventional oil field that draws about 300,000 expatriates to the area.
Almost 50 percent of passengers using Dammam’s King Fahd International Airport and 17 percent at Bahrain Airport are travelling to or from the Al Hofuf area, according to Arab News. Much of that traffic would be expected to transfer to the new international airport.
Several new investments in the area also are expected to boost passenger numbers.
More than SR1.5bn ($400m) is being spent on a new 300m square metre industrial city for women, while the SR3.5bn Aqeer tourism project is expected to attract many tourists likely to use the Al Ahsa Airport.
A GACA study commissioned prior to approving the airport’s international status said passenger numbers would grow by 300,000 each year between 2015 and 2020.