By Saifur Rahman

Saudi Arabia plans to build the world’s largest airport at a 57 square kilometre patch of land in the country’s capital city Riyadh that, once complete, will handle up to 185 million passenger annually. This will create the largest gateway to the Kingdom as it plans to attract greater number of international tourists to the new tourism and entertainment destinations currently being built in the country as part of the country’s Vision 2030.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), announced a masterplan for the airport to be named after King Salman bin Abdulaziz, that could contribute SR27 billion annually to non-oil GDP and to create 103,000 direct and indirect jobs, in line with Vision 2030 objectives, according to a statement.

“King Salman International Airport which will boost Riyadh’s position as a global logistics hub, stimulate transport, trade and tourism, and act as a bridge linking the East with the West. The airport project is in line with Saudi Arabia’s vision to transform Riyadh to be among the top ten city economies in the world and to support the growth of Riyadh’s population to 15–20 million people by 2030,” a statement by PIF said.

“King Salman International Airport is expected to be one of the world’s largest airports covering an area of approximately 57 square kilometres, allowing for six parallel runways and including the existing terminals named after King Khalid. It will also include 12 square kilometres of airport support facilities, residential and recreational facilities, retail outlets, and other logistics real estate. The airport aims to accommodate up to 120 million travellers by 2030 and 185 million travellers, with the capacity to process 3.5 million tons of cargo, by 2050.

“It will become an aerotropolis centred around a seamless customer journey, world-class efficient operations, and innovation. Riyadh’s identity and the Saudi culture will be taken into consideration in the airport’s design to ensure a unique travel experience for visitors and transit travellers.”

This will be significantly larger than the Al Maktoum International Airport – that Dubai Government is planning to build at Dubai South – a 140-square kilometre Airport City or Aerotropolis, which has a design capacity of 160 million passenger capacity per annum.

The Middle East region has more than 110 airports, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). These airports, in the last two decades, have become popular transit hubs for travellers, spearheaded by home-grown international airlines led by Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Oman Air, Gulf Air, among others. Aviation industry in the region is one of the fastest growing in the world, accounting for 170 million, or 4 percent of the global traffic of 4.6 billion in 2021.

During pre-Covid, the industry in the Middle East generated US$213 billion in revenues, accounting for 6 percent of global economic activity. The sector generated over 3 million jobs until 2019 in the Middle East.

In 2019, Middle Eastern airports handled 404 million passengers, which declined to 135 million in 2020 and 169 million passengers in 2021, due to COVID-19 pandemic. Middle East Airports remained the most impacted in 2021, reached only 42 percent of its 2019 level by year end. This was mainly due to its dependence on international traffic, ACI noted.

This year, the region is expected to reach 67 percent of 2019 levels and fully recover only in late 2024.

“There has been an improvement in traffic in the first four months of 2022 (from January to April) with the region recording 66 percent traffic compared to the same period in 2019. Cargo throughput too remains positive in the first four months of the 2022, achieving 86 percent as compared to same period in 2019,” ACI said in a recent statement.

ACI forecasts indicate that close to 19.7 billion trips are expected to be made by passengers by air globally by 2040 – more than double of the 9 billion trips made by passengers in 2019.

Middle Eastern Airports are expected to handle 1.1 billion passengers by 2040 – a significant increase of nearly 300 percent of the combined 405 million traffic they handled in 2019. In order to handle the surge, Middle Eastern airports have to develop their infrastructure, ACI said.

According to ACI forecast, world’s airports are expected to invest nearly $2.4 trillion to develop their infrastructure by the year 2040.

The Middle East’s projected capital expenditure (CAPEX) needs amount to about $151 billion between 2021 and 2040.

Near-term (2021-2025) greenfield airport projects are expected to comprise 56 percent or $17 billion of total near-term regional airport CAPEX, though that share will gradually decrease over the long-run (2026-2040), as the region meets long-run air passenger capacity needs. To bring to life the ambition of becoming a local gateway for global travel, the Middle East countries are investing billions of dollars into new-build airports to create iconic transport hubs.

Stefano Baronci, director general, ACI, says, “Airports in the Middle East will need to spend around $151bn to complete the expansion and modernisation projects for their airports over the next two decades. Many airports in the region have already placed significant emphasis on infrastructure investment as well, with digital innovation and technology driving change.

“A number of Middle Eastern airports have invested billions of dollars into new airports to strengthen its position as global transport hubs. This is a clear indication that the airports have shown the intent towards capacity expansion to meet the future growth.”

With sustainability at its core, King Salman International Airport will achieve LEED Platinum certification by incorporating cutting edge green initiatives into its design and will be powered by renewable energy.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. Since 2015, when the Board was reconstituted and oversight transferred to the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, the Fund’s board of directors has been chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. PIF a leading role in advancing Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation and diversification, as well as contributing to shaping the future of the global economy. Since 2017, PIF has established 66 companies and created, directly and indirectly, more than 500,000 jobs as at the end of 2021.

The announcement comes as part of PIF’s strategy which focuses on unlocking the capabilities of promising sectors to enhance Saudi Arabia’s efforts in diversifying the economy, and it is in line with the National Transport Strategy and the Global Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.

via Saudis to build world’s biggest airport


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