Saudi Arabia has opened its RM4.6bn ($1.2bn) international airport at Medinah weeks before the commencement of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
With an annual capacity of eight million passengers, the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International airport is the country’s first to be constructed and operated by the private sector.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) that currently oversees the operations of the country’s 27 existing airports also owns the new airport. It has been operating the airport on a trial basis to check the efficiency of its systems.
The new airport is spread across four million square meters, and will handle eight million annually after the first phase. Its capacity will eventually be increased to 18 million and 40 million in the next two phases.
GACA president Sulaiman Al-Hamdan was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying: "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.
"The new Medinah airport is the first in a series of airports that will be privatised to further elevate passenger services and experiences."
The airport includes six external terminals that have been constructed within close proximity of the Hajj terminal, covering a total area of 10,000m² with a seating capacity of 4,000.
It also sports advanced passenger and baggage conveyance services with 36 elevators, 28 escalators and 23 conveyor belts to ease congestion and speed up movement inside the terminals.