Busiest year for Bahrain

An artist's perspective of the new control tower.

Bahrain International Airport enjoyed the busiest year in its 69 year history, with passenger traffic reaching 3, 991,623, almost 2 per cent up on 2000.

Transportation minister, Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, expressed pleasure at the growth in traffic which, considering the tragic events of September 11 last year, was a satisfying performance.

"In the aftermath of September 11, there was a worldwide slump in travel and a sharp cutback in operations by many of the world's leading airlines," the airport authorities said in a statement.

"The last quarter of 2001 witnessed the greatest downturn in aviation history for many years and Bahrain International Airport, like many others, was affected.

"The main impact was felt during the months of October and November as airline schedules were reduced and some charter operators switched to non-stop operations between Europe and the Indian Ocean resort destinations.

"Bahrain's ability to withstand the worst effects of the worldwide downturn of business was due to its open skies policy, expansion of regional hubbing services, the strength of Bahrain's economy and its pivotal role as a major commercial centre in the Middle East."

Highlighting some of the key aspects of the airport's 2001 airport performance, the statement said arrivals were up 2.2 per cent to 1,719,314 passengers in 2001, departures rose 1.6 per cent to 1,725,261 while transit passengers dropped slightly by 0.6 per cent to 547,048.

It said that although the increases in arriving and departing passengers were small, they clearly showed that business was recovering and the prospects for 2002 were encouraging.

August was the busiest month of 2001 when a total of 399,412 passengers used Bahrain International Airport, the statement said.

The air cargo sector performed well with traffic in 2001 increasing by 5 per cent over 2000 levels, to reach 156,330 tonnes.

"Increased operations by a number of carriers and a boost in inbound cargo because of the major projects underway in Bahrain, saw import cargo increase by 16 per cent during the year," the statement said.

The airport received a BD3 million ($7.95 million) facelift late last year which included a new duty free area, almost double the size of the previous one, and an increase in the number of immigration counters and baggage conveyors.

The expansion aimed to provide a new look and image to the airport, which is expected to handle about five million passengers this year.

A new control tower is now planned for the airport and the civil aviation authorities have also approved a study to look into the possibility of converting the airport's taxiway into an emergency runway.