Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport closes south terminal after 40-year saga

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The iconic tent-like structure has seen millions of travelers pass through its high-ceilinged halls since its historic opening in 1981. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport closes south terminal after 40-year saga

  • Old terminal gives way to state-of-the-art facility at Terminal 1
  • Veteran staff recall Jeddah airport heyday

JEDDAH: King Abdulaziz International Airport’s southern terminal — a gateway to the Kingdom for almost 40 years — has closed its doors for the final time, bringing an end to an unrivalled chapter in Saudi aviation history.

With a design modeled on Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C, the iconic tent-like structure has seen millions of travelers pass through its high-ceilinged halls since its historic opening in 1981.
Now the southern terminal and its services will be moved to the airport’s latest global destination, T1, just a few miles away.
While the terminal doors will close, memories of the airport and its place in the Kingdom’s history remain.
Saad Al-Shehri, former vice president of safety and security at Saudi Arabian Airlines, said that the airport’s inauguration in April 1981 was a moment of national pride and a “cultural shift in aviation and logistics services in the Kingdom.”

King Abdulaziz International Airport created a revolution in aviation in the Middle East and, more specifically, Saudi Airlines.

Ali Malat, Former Saudi Arabian Airlines assistant general manager

King Abdulaziz International Airport was characterized by its large size and the beauty of its design, he said.
“The airport was one of the most beautiful ever designed. It was distinguished by its smooth flow of movement,” said Al-Shehri.
“The departure lounges were separate from arrivals, and the Saudi Airlines flight halls were separate from those dedicated for foreign airlines. Modern and comfortable jet bridges were used for passengers to board and disembark. These were used in only three airports around the world to my knowledge — King Abdulaziz Airport, Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, and Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.”


Al-Shehri added: “The airport was also characterized by its modern buildings, complementing operational, technical and support services, whether related to the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and airport management or what is related to Saudi Airlines.”
He said that for the first time in the Kingdom, “modern and spacious buildings were allocated to airport management and a building for Saudi Airlines’ operations, which included pilots’ management, air service management, royal flight management and more.”
Former pilot Capt. Ali Badeeb was on duty when the airport opened almost 40 years ago.
“It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life,” he recalled.
“I was full of joy when I moved to the new airport, which was equipped with the latest technology relating to operations, maintenance, passenger service and air navigation systems at the time.”

The airport’s inauguration in April 1981 was a moment of national pride and a cultural shift in aviation and logistics services in Saudi Arabia.

Saad Al-Shehri, Former vice president of safety and security at Saudi Arabian Airlines

Badeeb said that he has “mixed feelings of sadness and joy” as he bids farewell to the terminal.
“We raised the capabilities of loyal men who dedicated their lives to serve their country, and this building witnessed a great leap forward in the aviation sector in the Middle East,” he said.
Former Saudi Arabian Airlines assistant general manager Ali Malat said the airport’s opening “inspired all Saudis” because it was a sign of expansion and development, followed by King Khalid Airport in Riyadh and then King Fahd Airport in Dammam.


Malat said that airports at that time “were small and in the heart of the cities,” and described King Abdulaziz International Airport as a “real breakthrough.”
“We were eagerly waiting for the airport building. It was completed very quickly, at a time when Jeddah had a narrow geographic area and the city was not as big as it is today.”
Malat said that King Abdulaziz International Airport created a revolution in aviation in the Middle East and, more specifically, Saudi Arabian Airlines.
“By virtue of my work in the field of aircraft maintenance, I can tell you that aircraft maintenance and engineering were operating from within the airport and had the spaces that helped them perform their tasks effectively and efficiently.”
He said the “big leap forward” in technical capabilities offered new horizons for creativity, innovation and development, especially in aircraft maintenance.
“Countries in the region with airports that today offer a role model in terms of efficiency, beauty and quality of service consider the old King Abdulaziz International Airport as a landmark that cannot be matched,” he said.
“These countries used to have only small local airports that were not to be compared to the old airport, which was equipped with the latest technology of its time.”
Capt. Essam Yeslam said that the history of aviation in Saudi Arabia has been linked from the outset to the training of cadres working in the sector’s facilities and departments for both civil and military use.
“When we were young, we used to look with admiration and fascination at everything new in this field, and we are grateful for the special care that our country and our leadership are paying to this sector, giving special interest to all developments and innovations worldwide,” he said.
Capt. Yeslam noted that urban expansion throughout the Kingdom during the 1970s put a burden on the old Jeddah airport, located in the center of the city, surrounded by buildings from all sides.
“King Abdulaziz International Airport was designed along the model of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., as resources were dedicated to design a new and modern airport with up-to-date characteristics approved by King Faisal.”


He said: “Fortunately, all sections of King Abdulaziz International Airport became fully operational, including the northern and southern facilities, pilgrims’ halls with an annual capacity of nearly 8 million passengers, modern navigational equipment, three runways that were at the time a great leap forward in the process of the development and modernization of the Kingdom, accompanied by a major expansion in the fleet of Saudia Airlines, and an increase in its international and domestic flights, international and private airlines companies, and in the number of pilgrims.”

Yeslam said the first phase of the airport's expansion was designed to handle 30 million passengers per year and there were plans to expand the capacity to 80 million passengers per year in the third and final phase — one of the most notable developments he has seen since beginning service with Saudia in 1977.


Pilgrims to quarantine for 14 days after Hajj

More than 41,361 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours. (SPA)
Updated 04 August 2020

Pilgrims to quarantine for 14 days after Hajj

  • COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia continue to fall, officials say

JEDDAH: Pilgrims who took part in this year’s Hajj must continue wearing electronic tags so authorities can track their 14-day quarantine once they return home.

The bracelet is designed to monitor pilgrims’ adherence to quarantine, as well as monitoring and recording their health status through the “Tatamman” app.
Pilgrims were required to quarantine before embarking on the Hajj and wore the bracelets to ensure they were obeying the self-isolation rules as part of strict measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The country continues to experience a decline in COVID-19 cases. Recorded infections remain below the 2,000 mark for the 10th day in a row. The Kingdom reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, raising the number of those infected to 280,093 so far.
There are currently 35,091 active cases and six patients were admitted to critical care units, raising the number to 2,017. There were 32 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 2,949.
There were 1,972 new recoveries recorded, raising the total number of recoveries to 242,053.
More than 41,361 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours. The total number of PCR tests conducted to date exceeds 3.47 million.

INNUMBERS

280,093 COVID-19 cases

242,053 Recoveries

35,091 Active cases

2,949 Total deaths

3.47m PCR tests

The Ministry of Health has been carrying out daily visits to health institutions in order to assess their level of commitment to anti-coronavirus measures, such as ensuring that staff adhere to social distancing, wear masks, and adopt the health practices and crisis management mechanisms recommended by authorities to protect patients and staff.
Teams have been dispatched to supervise the compliance of health facilities’ quarantine centers across Saudi Arabia and stepped up their visits to government and private hospitals to ensure their compliance with health protocols, sample transfers and staff testing as well as ensuring that all routine surgeries are stopped.
More than 5,000 violations have been recorded and violators were referred to committees. More than 150 facilities were temporarily shut down by the ministry until the proper protocols were implemented and the violations were fixed. A number of institutions were able to resume operations after settling fines.