Makkah airport plan shelved, but Jeddah & Taif expansions on track

Speculation that Makkah in Saudi Arabia is set to get its own airport have been denied by Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  December 1, 2003

Speculation that Makkah in Saudi Arabia is set to get its own airport have been denied by Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation. Press speculation has been rife in the Kingdom because of the growing number of Umrah pilgrims that arrive in the area every year. However, Prince Sultan categorically stated, “There is no truth in the report.” Instead, King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah will be expanded; making it the main gateway for Haj and Umrah pilgrims. Work will start soon, he said, adding expansion of Taif airport was also progressing as planned. The KAIA expansion project includes construction of two new terminals and establishment of 25 air bridges. When complete, the airport will be capable of accommodating 21 million passengers per year. The expansion is essential to meet the growing number of passengers as a result of the Kingdom’s drive to promote tourism and receive Umrah pilgrims throughout the year. According to a report carried by Asharq Al-Awsat in March, Bechtel Saudi Arabia and Dar Al-Riyadh were to implement the huge expansion project. Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the Civil Aviation Authority would sign an agreement worth SR5.63 billion (US $1.5 billion) with the two companies to implement the project. The project is expected to bring together all international flight operations in a single terminal, including those of Saudi Arabian Airlines, and facilitate the movement of passengers. The first new terminal will be built to the east of the present Southern Terminal. The present Southern Terminal will be renovated for incoming international flights and include a VIP reception area. The third terminal will be constructed to the west of the Southern Terminal on two levels and is earmarked for domestic arrivals and departures. Last year, 13 million passengers used the airport, the main gateway for pilgrims and expat workers. Jeddah airport currently handles more than 80% of the pilgrim traffic, and 40% of all air traffic in Saudi Arabia. The airport’s Haj terminal, capable of serving more than a million pilgrims at a time, handles about 300 flights a day during the peak season. The Taif airport expansion comes amid reports of plans to divert some foreign pilgrim traffic to reduce pressure on Jeddah airport.

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