Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) is looking to privatise operations at some of the major airports in the Kingdom, according to a senior aviation official.
“The management and operation of some major airports with intensive local and international air traffic may soon be offered to the private sector,” Khaled Al-Khaibary, a spokesperson for GACA was quoted as saying in Al-Eqtisadiah.
The official said that the Haj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah have already been privatised. He added that the management and operation of Taif airport will be privatised later this year.
Saudi Arabia’s plans of privatisation come amidst a flurry of negative feedback it received about one of its airports.
Last year, Jeddah’s KAIA was ranked the world’s worst airport by a website called A Guide to Sleeping In Airports. The website, which grades the facilities offered by airports across the world, rated KAIA based on four categories including comfort, convenience, cleanliness and customer service.
“The main terminal is fairly lackluster. It isn’t overly clean, crowds can be a problem, and the services for travelers are in short supply,” the website wrote following the readers’ poll.
Along with regional aviation hubs UAE and Qatar, the Kingdom is investing massively in ramping up its airport infrastructure and boosting capacity. The expansion in Saudi is mainly targeted at accommodating a growing influx of religious and business tourists to the country.
Some of the major airport projects include Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport, which is set to boost capacity to 35 million passengers annually in its first phase of expansion and 47 million in the second phase. The project is set for completion in 2017.
Meanwhile, Jeddah’s KAIA too is undergoing massive redevelopment, which is divided into three phases. The first stage is expected to increase the airport’s capacity from 13 to 30 million annual passengers while the airport will be able to handle up to 80 million passengers per year after it is fully complete.
Other airports that are currently undergoing expansion work include the Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah and airports in Jazan, Bha, Qassim Arar, Al Jouf and Yanbu.
By 2020, Saudi Arabia’s airports are expected to have the combined capacity to handle over 100 million travellers.