Bahrain International Airport: Then and now

Posted: 31 July 2007 | Capt. Abdulrahman Al Gaoud, Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain | No comments yet

For centuries the Kingdom of Bahrain was the centre of pearling in the Arabian Gulf. For just as long it has been the focus of the ancient trade routes interfacing Europe and the Middle East with Persia, the sub continent, Africa and beyond.

For centuries the Kingdom of Bahrain was the centre of pearling in the Arabian Gulf. For just as long it has been the focus of the ancient trade routes interfacing Europe and the Middle East with Persia, the sub continent, Africa and beyond.

In the 21st century nothing has changed much. Bahrain International Airport is one of the finest in the Gulf, with runways and facilities that can handle the largest aircraft in service, while the emerging potential at the Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Port and Hidd industrial area, offer spectacular opportunities to organisations and manufacturers aiming to exploit local and regional markets.

The King Fahd Causeway to Saudi Arabia provides unrivalled access to the excellent land routes that spread out across the Arabian Peninsula and in recent years Bahrain has become an ever more influential centre for banking and financial services, commanding increasing respect for its range of fiscal instruments and integrity.

With its agreeable climate, many leisure activities and modern public social infrastructure, Bahrain is also a highly attractive place to live and is truly a ‘gateway’ in every sense.

Despite the recent focus on the UAE, Bahrain has continued to maintain its passenger throughput. With a total of 6.7 million arrivals and departures in 2006, the airport is also popular with the major international and regional airlines, having welcomed several important newcomers during the same period.

Bahrain International Airport is the home of Gulf Air, the national flag-carrier for the country, which operates more than 770 flights to 58 destinations across the Gulf and worldwide. It is also a key link in the networks of such carriers as British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, KLM, Cathy Pacific, Air India, Qatar Airways and others, totaling nearly 40 carriers in all. Its central Gulf location is one aspect of this success but another is the Civil Aviation Authority’s continuing priority to ensure the best services, both to passengers and airlines and a readiness to negotiate competitive rates.

This is also reflected in cargo throughput (360,000 tonnes in 2006) and the fact that it is a major hub for companies such as DHL, ARAMEX, FedEx, TNT and UPS. The airport is the DHL Middle East regional hub and is also home to several important logistics operations.

For passengers, travel or transit through Bahrain is a generally pleasant experience thanks to the high standards and attention to detail the airport management is determined to maintain.

The year 2006 saw the start of the three-phase expansion programme, ultimately aimed at doubling the capacity to accommodate 15 million passengers by 2015, including a special facility capable of handling two Airbus 380s. By the time it has been completed there will be up to 10 remote stands, able to accommodate up to 64 aircraft.

Bahrain International Airport was one of the first to become firmly established in the Gulf. The key to its success has been a readiness to invest in infrastructure and services to stay ahead of its rivals. This strategy has ensured wider benefits for the Kingdom of Bahrain in allowing the country to maintain its position to service a strong banking and financial services sector, as well as to attract traders and tourists from every corner of the world.

After many stages of planning and consultancy, the details of Bahrain’s airport of the future are taking shape. Already, some aspects of the far- reaching programme, that was started several years ago, have become reality: the new control tower, the emergency runway and parallel taxiway, the upgrading of the main runway and the installation of security cameras on the airport perimeter fence.

There have also been numerous refurbishments within the terminal building, such as new check-in facilities, upgrading of the VIP and airline lounges, as well as other less obvious, but equally important projects to enhance the passenger experience through the airport.

New attention is being turned to the complete transformation of the familiar terminal building which, since its opening in 1961, has undergone several transformations. The latest scheme, due to be in full operation by 2011, will project Bahrain International Airport to a completely new level of service capability in order to meet the growing demands of business and leisure through the region.

The massive project will more than double the size of the terminal building, increase the number of aircraft stands to 64 and triple the number of air bridges, thereby allowing the airport to handle up to 15 million passengers a year.

The expansion project will also make the airport one of the most user-friendly in the region by doubling the number of check-in desks and increasing the baggage handling capacity from the present 1500 pieces per hour to 6000 per hour.

In addition to the increased floor area, the terminal expansion will include thirteen more gates serviced by state-of-the-art air bridges. This will bring the total to 20 air bridges in addition to 15 remote parking stands. The seven additional gates will make the airport capable of accommodating 10 Code E aircraft (Airbus A330 and A340 and Boeing 747 and 777), 8 Code C aircraft (Airbus A320 and Boeing 737), as well as two Code F aircraft – the Airbus A380 or other new large aircraft.

Beside the new Code F terminal stands, an existing parking bay will also be converted to accommodate one Code F aircraft, thus providing the airport with two terminal building stands and more remote stands able to cater to the new A380 super-sized aircraft.

The whole project will be tailored to permit existing terminal operations to continue until the extensions have been completed. The whole operation is expected to take 49 months to complete – with a design period of 15 months followed by a construction period of 30 months, plus a period in between set aside for tendering.

When completed, Bahrain International Airport will be equipped to serve the increased traffic expected for the foreseeable future, as well as being able to provide passengers with a comfortable and relaxing travel experience.

Abdulrahman Al Gaoud

Capt. Abdulrahman Al Gaoud was one of the first cadet pilots recruited by Gulf Air to be sent to the Oxford Flight Training Academy in the United Kingdom to obtain his Commercial Pilot’s License in 1970. He also was seconded to Aer Lingus, Dublin and British Airways, London to undergo training and to gain flying experience. He returned to work with Gulf Air in various positions, including Executive Vice President, Operations and Acting Chief Executive. He has 30 years flying experience and was also the test pilot responsible for taking delivery of most of Gulf Air’s B767 and A340 aircraft.

In 1996 he was appointed as Asst. Undersecretary for Aviation Services, Civil Aviation Affairs, Ministry of Transportation. In 2002 he was promoted to Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Affairs, a position he currently holds.

Other positions that he held prior to this include the Head of the Executive Committee and Member of the Board of Directors of Gulf Air. He was also a Board Member of Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company (GAMCO) and an observer on the Board of Bahrain Airport Services.

He is married with six children and continues to fly on the Gulf Air A330 so that he retains his license.

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