Vast expansion planned for airports in the Gulf

DUBAI — Gulf countries have embarked on grandiose projects to build and expand their airports, capitalising on huge oil-generated surpluses and an ideal geographic location.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 12 Oct 2007, 10:29 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:25 PM

More than 38 billion dollars are being spent on brand-new airports or on expanding existing facilities across the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia this week announced plans to invest around 5.4 billion dollars on airport projects. The vast desert kingdom already has 27 airports, including three international airports.

Plans are under way to revamp the dated King Abdul Aziz airport in the Red Sea city of Jeddah that serves millions of pilgrims to the Muslim holy sites each year.

“The region is trying to catch up with the worldwide development of air travel... Record-high oil prices help this expansion,” explained Abid Riaz, aviation analyst at EFG-Hermes investment bank.

Oil receipts have inflated the coffers of GCC countries on the back of record-high crude prices, allowing their governments to embark on grand infrastructure projects.

Some Gulf countries are building attractive business environments which in turn bring more people and generate demand for air travel, Riaz said.

Last month, Oman also announced a three-billion-dollar plan to expand two existing airports, in addition to building three new ones.

Muscat’s Seeb International Airport will be able to handle 12 million passengers in 2010, compared to 4.7 million in 2006.

But the booming emirate of Dubai, which has established itself as a regional business and tourism hub, tops the list of big spenders with investments nearing 15 billion dollars on airport projects.

The city-state is building a third terminal and two new concourses at its airport — already the busiest in the Middle East with a throughput exceeding 28.7 million passengers in 2006.

This 4.5 billion dollar expansion is expected to be complete by 2009 to enable the airport — a main transit point between east and west — to handle up to 70 million passengers annually.

Dubai is spending 10 billion dollars on building a six-runway airport to become the world biggest.

The Jebel Ali airport (JXB) will be capable of handling up to 150 million passengers a year.

According to aviation data, the world busiest airport in 2006 was Atlanta in the United States that handled nearly 85 million passengers.

“Considering that (ongoing) investments in tourism ... in Dubai exceed 365 billion dollars, the number of visitors to Dubai will rise dramatically over the next few years,” Dubai’s civil aviation chief said at the Paris Air Show in June.

“Our multi-billion (dollars) investments in the aviation sector are in line with this projected growth,” he added.

Emirates already boasts a fleet comprising of 106 aircraft and has placed orders for 55 Airbus A380 super-jumbos and 42 Boeing 777s — the largest orders for both aircraft families.

Other GCC cities appear to follow in Dubai’s footsteps.

Neighbouring Abu Dhabi's four-year-old Etihad carrier is growing fast with current aircraft orders valued at eight billion dollars.

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