The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) plans to develop domestic airports to enable them operate additional flights to meet growing passenger demand.
“Airports in Al-Ahsa, Najran, Taif, Hail, Tabuk, Qassim, Yanbu and Abha have increased their capacity to accommodate airliners coming from Gulf and Arab countries, in addition to Turkish Airlines,” said Khalid Al-Khaibari, official spokesman of GACA.
“The Kingdom has four major international airports in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Madinah that receive international flights from all over the world,” he said.
“There were more than 1.1 million international travelers passing through domestic airports in 2012,” he said. “New airline companies are targeting destinations popular with Saudis and expats, including Dubai, Istanbul, Cairo, Sharjah and Doha.”
“There will be more options for domestic passengers, especially in Riyadh and Jeddah,” he said. “The development of airports across the Kingdom will undoubtedly lead to a rise in the number of passengers in the long run.”
King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, for instance, will accommodate more than 30 million passengers annually. A demo operation of the new plan will operate in 2015, he said. “The annual capacity of Riyadh Airport will also increase to 35 million passengers after the opening of its fifth terminal.”
There are plans to increase the capacity of King Abdullah Airport in Jazan to be able to accommodate 4 million passengers, in addition to 5 million yearly travelers at Abha airport and 2.5 million at Prince Naif Airport in Qassim.
Tabuk and Najran airports will accommodate 2.9 million passengers a year after expansions.
Turkish Airlines now arrives and departs from seven Saudi airports. Other airlines are Air Arabia, Flydubai, Qatar Airways, Felix Airways and EgyptAir, which operate from domestic airports both in the north and south.
Many Saudis and residents in the Kingdom fly to Dubai and other destinations using these airlines, then onward to other destinations in Asia and Europe.
The GACA approved five weekly flights of Air Arabia at Najran airport and one flight a day of EgyptAir.
The authority has also approved one daily flight to Sharjah on Air Arabia at Al-Ahsa airport and is studying requests made by other airliners to fly from the airport.
Saudia, on the other hand, launched its first nonstop flight from King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) in Dammam to Istanbul on Friday.