Saudi Arabia to set up five new airports

Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) will establish five new airports in the kingdom, GACA president Abdullah Al-Ruhaimy has told the media. He also said the agency had received offers from five short-listed companies competing for a contract to operate the Saudi Arabia's three international airports. GACA would invest SR20 billion on new airport projects across the country, he said.

Saudi Arabia has 27 airports including three international airports, in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Another international airport is to come up at Madina within four years. The government has so far spent nearly SR60 billion on airports.

Ruhaimy said the winner of the airport operation contract would be selected on the basis of technical rather than financial offers. The contract is likely to be awarded on 21 November.

The five short-listed companies are from Singapore, the Netherlands, Turkey, Germany and France. They have all submitted their bids. The winner will begin work early next year and continue until December 2013.

Ruhaimy said the authority has already completed plans for the development of King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah. Crown Prince Sultan has also signed an SR902.91 million ($240.77 million) contract with Al-Mabani Company earlier this year to develop and upgrade KAIA's aviation facilities. The contract covers expansion of the airport's tarmac and runways in order to increase its annual capacity to 80 million passengers.

Ruhaimy said a fourth terminal at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh is to come up ,in order to reduce pressure on the third terminal, which is used by new domestic airlines Sama and Nas in addition to Saudi Arabian Airlines.

He said the GACA would study the possibility of converting the three international airports into holding companies after reviewing the outcome of their commercial operations for three years.

GACA expects an annual increase of eight per cent in air traffic. Last year, more than 15 million passengers used the Jeddah airport while the airports in Riyadh and Dammam received 11 million and 3.5 million passengers, respectively.