Gulf states bet billions on soaring airport demand

Gulf states bet billions on soaring airport demand

DUBAI - Agence France-Presse
Gulf states bet billions on soaring airport demand

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman of the Emirates Airline. REUTERS photo

Gulf states pour billions of dollars into airport expansions, betting on a sharp rise in passenger traffic and competing to strengthen their positions as regional hubs for global travel.

At the Airport Show in Dubai he reiterated plans to spend $7.8 billion under the group’s Strategic Plan 2020, which should boost the capacity of Dubai International -- the Middle East busiest airport, from 60 million passengers to 90 million by 2018.

Between Dubai International and Al-Maktoum International, the emirate’s second airport that is planned to be the world’s largest and is yet to be used for passenger traffic, Dubai Airports expects to handle around 98.5 million passengers in 2020.

Passenger traffic

Dubai’s airport passenger traffic more than doubled over seven years, from 24.8 million passenger in 2005 to 50.1 million last year.

Paul Griffiths, the chief executive officer of Dubai Airports, said the group is focusing on completing concourse 3 that will increase capacity to 75 million passengers. The facility is purpose-built for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, for which Emirates is the largest single customer.

Elsewhere in the oil-rich region, airports are being expanded, or new hubs being erected from scratch, to accommodate an increase in passenger traffic, mainly in Qatar and neighboring Abu Dhabi.
Figures released at the Airport Show revealed that by 2015, the Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi airports will reach a combined annual capacity of 190 million passengers.

Falling profits

The rise in air traffic comes as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) cut back 2012 profit forecast for the airline sector last month over fears of rising fuel prices due to tension in the Gulf, while it played down the impact of the European debt crisis.

Qatar is building a new airport, about four kilometers east of its existing airport which has been enlarged and refurbished to handle the increase in passengers as Qatar Airways keeps expanding its routes.

The $14.5-billion new airport is being built on a land half of which is reclaimed from the Gulf, and should have a capacity of 24 million passengers when the first phase is completed this year.

Kuwait’s old airport is also planned to go through a $6-billion expansion to nearly double its
capacity to 13 million passengers in 2016, according to the head of the civil aviation directorate Fawaz al-Farah.

The emirate’s Kuwait Airways and the no-frills privately-owned Jazeera Airways operate from Kuwait airport, which handled 8.5 million passengers last year. Saudi Arabia, which occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula has announced plans to spend between $10 billion and $15 billion on
building and upgrading its airports by 2020.