Airports defy turbulence


Airports in the region are defying global air travel turbulence, continuing major expansion and refurbishment programmes.

Civil aviation and airport authorities in the Gulf are also improving facilities offered to airlines, passengers and cargo handlers as they join hands with other government agencies to tap tourist dollars as part of efforts to diversify their economies.

UAE airports are in the forefront of ambitious expansion programmes with airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah all getting massive facelifts.

Regional tourism hub Dubai, which says it expects 15 million visitors this year and nearly 30 million by the year 2010, has announced plans for an additional concourse at its third terminal under a $2.5 billion expansion programme.

The airport which posted a 10 per cent growth in passenger traffic and 9 per cent rise in cargo traffic last year, says its second phase expansion will include the construction of Terminal 3 and Concourse 2 and an additional Concourse 3 - all of which will be exclusively for Emirates airline, and a Cargo Mega Terminal.

The airport is also boosting its facilities like the meet and assist services and the Al Majlis VIP services while Dubai Duty Free is targeting sales of over Dh1 billion ($272 million) this year.

Abu Dhabi airport meanwhile is undertaking a comprehensive renovation programme for its duty free complex which will result in total retail space of 4,500 sq m.

The airport which operates the first city terminal in the Middle East, also plans to expand the airport hotel to 40 rooms from the current 19 besides offering a whole range of special facilities to transit passengers.

Sharjah International Airport has also begun a 15-year, multi-million dollar expansion programme aimed at further boosting its hub position.

It has recently undertaken a major restructure of its management and set up special committees to aggressively market the airport in international markets.

In Bahrain, the airport has received a total new look with the relocation and facelift of the duty free shops under a BD3 million ($7.95 million) exercise.

Bahrain's Civil Aviation Affairs have also outlined proposals to build a new control tower at the airport and convert its taxiway into an emergency runway.

Oman's two major airports, Seeb in Muscat and Salalah, have meanwhile started operating under a new management as part of the Sultanate's privatisation programme.

A consortium of local company Bahwan Trading Company, British Airports Authority and ABB Equity Venture is expected to invest RO100 million ($259.86 million) over the next 25 years to upgrade both the airports into world class facilities.

The new company, Oman Airport Management Company, aims to play a key role in promoting tourism to the Sultanate.

The region's first airport privatisation is being closely watched with interest by the industry.