GLOBAL INSIGHT / Bahrain report 2019

The Bahrain Airport Modernization Program

The $1.1 billion project will be inaugurated in 2019, increasing airport capacity to 14 million passengers a year.

GLOBAL INSIGHT

The launch of Bahrain International Airport’s (BIA) brand-new 210,000-square-meter passenger terminal building in 2019 will reinforce the kingdom’s central position in Middle Eastern air transportation. Four times larger than the current facility, it will be capable of processing 130,000 air traffic movements a year and will have a handling capacity of 4,700 bags an hour. It will increase BIA’s capacity to 14 million passengers a year and is built to the highest technological standards, ensuring a safe, secure and seamless airport experience.

The extra space is needed to accommodate the growing number of passengers and airlines using the airport. “BIA was last expanded in 1994 to meet a capacity of four million passengers but we have been running the airport at twice that for quite some time,” said Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah, CEO of the airport’s operator and managing body, Bahrain Airport Company (BAC). In fact, around nine million travelers and 624,000 flights were received in 2018 — up 7 percent and 4 percent from 2017, respectively. This not only reflects an increase in visitors arriving for business and leisure, but also BIA’s growing reputation among airlines for its low charges.

The Airport Modernization Program has come to fruition in record time, said Al Binfalah: “If you compare it with recent airport developments in our region, you’ll be surprised how fast-tracked it has been. We appointed design consultants in 2014, mobilized a contractor in 2016 and are now just a few months away from realizing our efforts.”

BAC is a part of the Gulf Air Group Holding Company, which was founded in 2010 to consolidate the aviation assets of Mumtalakat, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. Al Binfalah puts the Airport Modernization Program’s speed and quality down to collaboration within the group and with external stakeholders.

An exceptional airport terminal

“BAC is agile and has worked closely with its partners to create a modern platform. For example, air-bridge stands are being increased from seven to 12 and have been designed in partnership with the kingdom’s national carrier, Gulf Air,” he noted.

Gates are not the only thing expanding, he said: “Everything is being enhanced, including check-in counters, border controls, security, retail areas, food and beverage options and lounge capacity. We are also investing heavily in the latest digital systems to provide a very high level of service. For instance, we will probably be the first in the region to use some new security-screening technologies.” The terminal’s 25,000-square-meter new cargo area will also be equipped with cutting-edge systems to enhance e-commerce and express-cargo operations. FedEx Express has taken 9,000 square meters in this area, where space is being snapped up quickly as logistics companies recognize the opportunities offered by BIA’s modernity, connectivity, competitiveness and proximity to the Gulf’s largest economies.

The new airport also brings exciting opportunities in another of the kingdom’s growing sectors, tourism. BIA recently became more accessible through Gulf Air’s code-sharing agreement with Thai Airlines, which will link Tokyo, Bangkok and Bahrain. In addition, BIA’s increased capacity means it will be able to welcome more flights and leading airlines to the country.

The new passenger terminal building has been designed to reflect the hospitality, heritage, history, art and culture that Bahrain is known for. Said Al Binfalah: “We have a lot to offer and BAC would love to develop charter flights with partners in countries like Japan. Even after the completion of the Airport Modernization Program, we still won’t have the biggest terminal in this region — that’s not what we are trying to do. Our goal is to operate a friendly and efficient airport that delivers high-quality services and an exceptional travel experience.”