Dubai, Jul 6: Weeks before the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia has opened a new international airport built at a cost of USD 1.2 billion and a passenger capacity of eight million a year in Medina, the second holiest city of Islam.
Saudi King Salman officially opened the majestic Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport which is the country's first airport constructed and operated entirely by the private sector.
Phase one of the airport, spanning a total area of four million square meters, will allow for a passenger handling capacity of eight million a year, which will increase to 18 million and over 40 million passengers per annum in phase two and phase three respectively.
The ownership of the airport is with General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) which also oversees the operations of the Kingdom's 27 existing airports.
"The government is drawing up several efforts to increase its non-oil revenues and GACA is a leading contributor to these economic diversification efforts, driving the civil aviation industry's growth through expansion, infrastructure development and privatisation," said Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, President of GACA.
He said the focus of the country's recently rolled-out corporate strategy and plan was to transform Saudi Arabia's aviation sector profitability and performance by encouraging foreign investments and privatising the management and operation of its airports.
"The new Medina airport is the first in a series of airports that will be privatised to further elevate passenger services and experiences," Al-Hamdan said.
The airport has the distinction of being the first airport outside America to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Certification from the US Green Building Council.
The airport has 6 external terminals located within close proximity of the Hajj terminal, with a total area of 10,000 square meters and seating capacity of 4,000.
The airport also features advanced passenger and baggage conveyance services with 36 elevators, 28 escalators and 23 conveyor belts, all in place to facilitate and speed up the movement of passengers and luggage inside the terminals.
The annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca will be performed in September during which Medina will also host millions of pilgrims who would visit the city where the grave of Prophet Mohammad is located.