Growth outpaces projections in Saudi Arabia

New Riyadh Airport Terminal

Airport developments and investment are under a sharp focus with renewed vigour and vitality in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest aviation market, which is projected to have the fastest passenger traffic growth until 2040. A decade before that the aviation sector will deliver $75 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world’s 13th largest country by area and the second largest in the Arab world with a population of over 36 million.

Saudi Arabia has been featured on the list of the global airport construction market that is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2026, even as airport and airline managements look at new ideas and partnerships to leverage the industry’s huge growth potential after the pandemic brought the aviation sector to a standstill over the previous two years.

The role of aviation in achieving Saudi Vision 2030; preparing the kingdom’s air transport strategy for the next decade; stakeholder collaboration to achieve the Saudi aviation strategy; pioneering aviation sustainability in the oil-rich kingdom and digital disruption and innovation in the aviation sector were the widely debated topics at the two-day Future Airport Development and Investment Summit that took place alongside the Saudi Airport Exhibition at Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh on November 7 and 8.

The summit took place against the background of a total of 633 active projects at existing airports globally, with $565.7 billion investments. At the start of 2022, 1,038 airport projects were identified to be at various stages of development, including 452 in execution.

According to GlobalData, the total pipeline of new airport construction projects had a combined value of $1.64 trillion while the global fleet of aircraft is projected to touch 36,500 aircraft by 2031 and the global airport construction market size has been revised to $1.4 trillion by 2026.

Saudi Arabia is undertaking a massive airport expansion and upgrade programme to serve 330 million travellers by 2030 through $147 billion investments that will support $82.3 billion of GDP by 2037. The Kingdom’s prized possession, King Abdulaziz International Airport, is being expanded and tops the list of the world’s 50 biggest airport construction projects by value. It is among the top five projects that together account for a combined value of $126.7 billion. Jeddah airport had the highest number of international and domestic flights in 2019, operating almost 242,000 flights. Phase 2 of the airport’s expansion will increase the capacity to accommodate 43 million passengers a year and 80 million passengers by 2035.