The first commercial flight to land at the new King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah has signaled a major milestone for the facility, due to open early next year.
Operations are being phased in at the airport, with the commercial flight welcomed by a General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) senior management team on Tuesday.
The airport’s “soft launch” will be completed in four phases to ensure it is fully functional and employees are fully trained ahead of the facility’s official opening early next year.
When it opens the airport will operate 46 gates, but during the soft launch a limited number of flights will be managed through six gates.
Additional gates will open in line with the growth in capacity, with a focus on passenger security and safety.
The GACA’s approach is designed to avoid issues faced by other international airports that opened for operations before they were ready.
Abdulhakim bin Muhammad Al-Tamimi, GACA’s president, said: “The new airport is a major milestone for Saudi Arabia and will help meet the goals of Vision 2030 to support and drive the Kingdom’s economic development. The airport provides a platform that will allow the Kingdom to play a greater role as a regional hub for transport and logistics services, and support the growing number of pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques.”
Referring to the phasing in of operations, Al-Tamimi said this was a responsible approach adopted by most major infrastructure projects in the world.
“Delivering world-class security, safety and customer experience for all our passengers is at the heart of the vision of new GACA and we will achieve this by testing facilities in a controlled and disciplined manner.
“Our measure of success is not to have everything running perfectly on day one but to ensure that we are prepared for the full operational launch in 2019,” he said.
Al-Tamimi expressed his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their support of the civil aviation sector and the new airport.
He also thanked Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal and Makkah Deputy Gov. Prince Abdullah bin Bandar for their help in completing operational requirements at the airport.
The new airport will be a world-class resource and “a projection of the Kingdom’s ambitions to the world,” Al-Tamimi said.