Airports of the future

Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018

US$1.1 trillion global investments on airports as aviation industry soars
By Gemma Q. Casas

Industry experts say governments around the world are investing approximately US$1.1 trillion in airports and related construction projects to cope up with the current and future demand. Of the figure, the Center for Aviation (CAPA) says US$255 billion are being invested in new (Greenfield) airport projects and US$845 billion in new runways, terminal buildings, or terminal extensions.

Technology has changed the way we live and that will be fully exploited in airports as they grapple to handle more than 7.8 billion passengers forecast to travel across the globe by 2036.

Industry experts say governments around the world are investing approximately US$1.1 trillion in airports and related construction projects to cope up with the current and future demand. Of the figure, the Center for Aviation (CAPA) says US$255 billion are being invested in new (Greenfield) airport projects and US$845 billion in new runways, terminal buildings, or terminal extensions.

Asia-Pacific tops the list with projects valued at US$291.2 billion, CAPA noted. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) comes next at US$163.5 billion, with Saudia Arabia and the UAE accounting for the lion share with their airports up for further modernization. In North America, the US leads with projected spending of over US$90 billion.

China, the world’s most populous country with over 1.4 billion people, is spending US$76.7 billion for its airports. Its capital, Beijing, is taking as much as US$12.6 billion of the budget to increase its airport’s capacity to 100 million which is scheduled to open in October 2019.

Analysts say China’s domestic air-travel traffic will quadruple to 1.6 billion, thus, the government envisions increasing from 207 its domestic airports to 260 by 2020.


Already choking with its steadily increasing air travelers, India is spending US$62.2 billion to make 100 airports operational by 2035, collectively able to handle one billion passengers. Next year, India’s aviation industry is forecast to be the world’s third largest.

Tomorrow’s airports

Hailed for innovative concepts and state-of-the-art facilities, oil-rich countries in the Middle East are rivaling their counterparts in the West for bespoke design and technological advancements when it comes to airports.

In the UAE, the capital Abu Dhabi and the megacity Dubai have both ongoing airport construction projects designed to strongly support the country ‘s future economic growth.

Costing Dh19.1 billion, Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal will boast of contemporary art and architecture exuding openness and modernity. It has long-span arches with a roof that is almost twice as wide as the Heathrow International Airport and a central terminal space that can easily fit 21 football fields.

It will have 65 gates and can handle more than 45 million passengers a year who will be treated with visual connectivity between the airport’s outdoor landscaping and indoor spaces spread over six levels which have a hotel, shops, restaurants and a n art gallery, among other amenities.

First opened in 2010 to handle only cargo planes, Dubai World Central (DWC) is up for a major expansion to become the region’s first integrated multimodal transportation platform connecting air, sea and land.

Its main component, the A l Maktoum International Airport, is envisioned to be the world’s largest with capacity to handle up to 260 million passengers annually with the airport capable of landing four aircraft simultaneously.

The airport is designed to have three passenger terminals—one strictly for Emirates; two, to other airlines, and; three to low cost carriers. It will also have hotels and shopping malls, maintenance facilities and multiple concourses. Additionally, it is proposed to be linked to Dubai International Airport through a high-speed express rail system. Dubai had secured US$3 billion financing for its airport projects.
Sharjah, the cultural capital of the UAE, is also constructing a new terminal scheduled to be launched in 2021 in a move designed to increase the airport’s capacity to 25 million annually. The project is part of the AED1.5 billion expansion plan.

The emirate of Fujairah in the UAE is also transforming its airport with US $ 180 million budget amid anticipated in flux of more passengers.

In near by Oman, Muscat International Airport’s new terminal is expected to boost its capacity to 20 million passengers annually. The Sultanate is also planning to refurbish regional airports in Ad Duqm, Sohar and Ras Al Hadd.

In Egypt, three new airports are being built costing US$18.5 billion. One of them, the Sphinx International Airport, is slated to open this year.

Saudi Arabia, which has 27 airports across the Kingdom, is building four new airports with the help of the private sector. Riyadh’s newly-modernized King Khalid International Airport is scheduled to be opened in 2019 while the new Taif International Airport is expected to open in December 2020.

Despite having enough cash, Saudi Arabia is exploring three main models to privatize its airports. The first method enjoins the private sector to manage its airports which is being done for Dammam and Riyadh Airports.

Second model is the public-private partnership (P3) and the third, management contract, is being tested in Jeddah.

Not only are new airports being built in Saudi, the Kingdom is also upgrading airport systems in many aspects.Dammam Airports Company (DACO), for instance, has signed two strategic agreements with Vanderlande and Serco Middle East last May at the 18th Airport Show held in Dubai.

Vanderlande, the global market leader for value-added logistic process automation at airports, agreed to work with DACO on introducing a state-of-the-art Baggage Handling System (BHS) at KFIA that will help make travel procedures smoother for airport personnel, passengers and airlines.

“Guided by our vision to transform airports and redefine the travel experience, our efforts in the last 10 months have focused on expanding the airport’s operational efficiency, as it witnesses a steady growth in passenger traffic and an increased demand for commercial services. We are pleased to partner with global leaders like Vanderlande and Serco Middle East to execute our long-term plans for the airport, and transform it into a major hub for air transportation within the region and beyond,” said Turki Abdullah Al-Jawini, Chief Executive Officer of Dammam Airports Company.

Serco Middle East, meanwhile, will install cutting-edge fire and rescue services at the airport.

Dammam Airpor t is investing Dh1.37 billion to refurbish its airport which include the expansion of its cargo village.

Bahrain, which recently discovered new oil sources in the tiny kingdom, is building its second international airport on an artificial island for US$1.1billion. The project’s first phase is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2019. The new airpor t is projected to boost Bahrain’s passenger traffic to 14 million annually.

Kuwait is also constructing a new airport terminal to handle 25 million passengers a year. Costing US$4.3 billion, the new facilities will accommodate all types of aircraft.
Set to open late this year, Istanbul New Airport will be the biggest in the world with capacity to handle up to 150 million passengers with potential to be increased to 200 million.

The new airport will become the hub of Turkish Airlines which flies to more than 121 countries. Covering 76.5 million square meters, the site will have 228 passport control desks, two terminals, six runways and futuristic hotel rooms with trendy brand Yotel opening its first property in Turkey.

The old Ataturk airport, which in 2016 was hit by a terror bomb attack, will cease to operate when the new old located about 22 miles from the city center is opened.

Technology and immigration

With the use of technology, Dubai International (DXB), which last year handled more than 88 million passengers, managed to reduce immigration process within 6 seconds through the use sophisticated equipment and data intelligence.

Thani Al Zaffin, director general and board member of Emaratech who was among the panelists at the Global Airport Leaders Forum “Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM), emphasized technology is not only hastening the process but also making passengers happy.

Technology is also being used in the simplest of things at airports for convenience and seamless flow of activities while dealing with tens of thousands on a daily basis.

Airports Council International said airports generate about 40 percent of its income from non-aeronautical revenue sources such as car parking, land rents, terminal concession and advertising. In 2016, this totaled to US$152 billion. PS Nair, Chief Executive Officer of GMR Group, said knowing how to serve well your customers made a difference.

“When we took over Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport the commercial revenue was negligible. Today, the same airport is ranked number 1 in the world in service quality,” said the CEO of GMR Group which operates Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad and Mactan Cebu International Airport in the Philippines.
By 2030, Smart Gates at Dubai airports will officially be fully adopted and used to reduce human involvement in processing travelers for immigration purposes, Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai (GDRFA-D), emphasized at the recently held Airport Security Middle East Conference.

Col. Hamooda Belsuwaida Alameri, Assistant Director-General Operations at General Department of Airport Security, Dubai Police, meanwhile noted, technologies have been put into strategies to make Dubai airports safer and secure for everyone.

“Dubai police has plans to coordinate its human resources and capabilities to ensure security at airports. The airport security challenges are land side security, cyber security and security checkpoints. Airports, the police and the security agencies need to collaborate and exchange information as well as to do risk assessments to ensure security on all fronts,” Al Marri added: “We are constantly evolving with the advent of modern technology and artificial intelligence tools. This may be one of the factors facing some sectors, requiring the deployment of innovative and intelligent solutions by governmententities and contribution to promoting Dubai’s global leadership.”