Passenger facilities at Kuwait International Airport (KIA) are set to enter a new era in excellence with the opening of the first phase of the airport's Commercial Centre development.
Phase one of the project at the airport which is expected to be used by nearly four million passengers this year, will be operational spring 2002, according to the airport authorities.
Located adjacent to the airport terminal, the KD18 million ($60 million) project, comprises two distinct elements:
The two-storey Commercial Centre complex , linked directly to the terminal's Arrival and Departure halls; and
The extension of the airport's short- and long-term public car parking facilities.
"The ultra-modern architecture of the centre complements the unique design of the airport's existing terminal, opened in 1980, which is modeled on the shape of a wide body aircraft," said a statement by Kuwait's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
"Viewed from the air, the Commercial Centre project is truly eye-catching, the scalloped roof resembling the jet 'wake' of an aircraft streaming away from the main terminal building.
"The interior is equally impressive with the soaring, streamlined structure making maximum use of natural light through the use of extensive glazing. The spacious and airy environment, reminiscent of the great rail stations of Europe, is devised to be the airport's 'signature building', creating a world-class impression for travellers."
The initial phase - the ground floor Arrivals level - is scheduled to come online this month. The main hall has been designed to ease passenger flows at busy times, with the spacious central plaza leading directly out to the kerbside pick-up zone, and on to the car parks.
Over 1,600 cars can be accommodated in the multi-storey short-term car park, with about 800 spaces in the shaded long-term zone.
"Great care has been taken to maintain KIA's reputation as a passenger-friendly facility, with some of the shortest kerbside to aircraft walking distances of any international airport," the authorities said.
"Additional space has allowed for a far more eclectic mix of commercial concessions, putting KIA on a par with other Gulf gateways. Retail shops, services, and food and beverage outlets are now strategically located around the central plaza, along with comfortable seating areas for meeters and greeters."
Relocation of the Arrivals food, retail and beverage into the new complex has also freed up space in the existing arrivals area, allowing for expansion of luggage carousels and baggage and customs halls.
The final phase of the project, the first floor Departure level, is scheduled for completion by 2003. Departing passengers will also enjoy a significantly enhanced range of services, from additional check-in facilities and airline counters to an expanded range of pre-departure shops.
On completion, the Kuwait Airport Commercial Centre will comprise of commercial and governmental spaces for airline offices, retail shops, food courts and other services & facilities.
The existing Arrival and Departure halls are also undergoing refurbishment to harmonise decor throughout the airport facility.
The Commercial Centre is a joint public-private partnership carried out under a build-operate-transfer scheme.
While the new passenger facilities are the most visible sign of the upgrades taking place at KIA, behind the scenes other, no less vital, investments are serving to cement the airport's reputation for efficiency and safety with its customers.
Over the last two years the DGCA has made a host of enhancements to KIA's air traffic services, with a new approach control radar system and, most recently, the inauguration of new weather radar and low level wind shear equipment.
A rolling program is currently underway to replace all the terminal's airbridges with the latest equipment. Capable of handling the largest commercial jetliners currently in service, in 2001 the airport handled over 32,000 aircraft movements
Other upgrades on the horizon include a new long-range primary radar system and construction of the Kuwait Control and Meteorology Centre (KCMC), a state-of-the-art facility designed to bring together all the airport's communications, air traffic and meteorology services under a single roof.
Projects on the long-range drawing board include a General Aviation Terminal and, when traffic requires, a second mid-field passenger terminal.
The DGCA is also moving to introduce competition in the field of ground services at KIA, with the contract for a second handling company expected to be let in the near future.
Almost 40 passenger and cargo airlines offer more than 600 weekly flights from KIA to around 100 destinations throughout the Middle East, Europe and worldwide including New York, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Moscow, Singapore, Rome and Paris.