‘Send my bags to the resort please’: Welcome to TRSDC’s new airport

Exclusive Unlike current standards, the entire operational plans for travel processes at RSI ensure top- notch customer services and create an environment that offers a seamless, unmatched and hassle-free experience.
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Unlike current standards, the entire operational plans for travel processes at RSI ensure top- notch customer services and create an environment that offers a seamless, unmatched and hassle-free experience.
Exclusive ‘Send my bags to the resort please’: Welcome to TRSDC’s new airport
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Updated 31 July 2022

‘Send my bags to the resort please’: Welcome to TRSDC’s new airport

‘Send my bags to the resort please’: Welcome to TRSDC’s new airport
  • The first phase of this Saudi Vision 2030 project will welcome the first guests early next year

Flight testing held on July 20-21 at the Red Sea International Airport, which is under construction at The Red Sea Project, marks the beginning of a new era of tourism and travel in the Kingdom.

With over five hours’ drive from the nearest existing major international airports of Jeddah or Madinah and over two hours from the nearest regional international airports of Yanbu or AlUla, RSI airport will bring domestic and international guests to the doorstep of this new global tourism destination.

Deliberately located some 20km from the sensitive coastal lagoons and islands, home to precious mangroves and reefs, the airport is tucked away on an open plain between the coastal dunes and the mountains.

The first phase of this Saudi Vision 2030 project will welcome the first guests early next year, and the airport’s developers are determined to make the travelers’ experience unique.

TRSP in itself is a unique regenerative development with the vast majority of land and marine area remaining untouched and the carefully selected development intervention set to achieve an environmental net-positive benefit by 2040. In addition, the supporting infrastructure, such as the new airport, has been sensitively approached to stay true to the vision and values of the project's developer The Red Sea Development Co.

TRSDC Airport Project Executive Director Joseph Stratford, a civil and environmental engineer who has spent most of his career in airport infrastructure delivery in the Middle East, is spearheading the project.

He left for his homeland for five years to apply his international airport delivery experience to the expansion of the London Heathrow Airport. He has since returned to the Kingdom to lead on next-generation aviation delivery.

“Red Sea International Airport is one of the smaller airports I have led, but without doubt the most iconic, progressive and special. The architectural concept, mode of operation and guest experience are truly unique,” Stratford told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

 

Red Sea International Airport is the most iconic, progressive and special. The architectural concept, mode of operation and guest experience are truly unique.

Joseph Stratford

Unmatched operating procedures

Unlike current standards, the entire operational plans for travel processes at RSI ensure top-notch customer services and create an environment that offers a seamless, unmatched and hassle-free experience. 

For instance, the aviation team is working toward implementing a unique concept of operations for baggage handling. Passengers at RSI will not have to worry about stopping by a baggage claim area to pick up their bags.

“Instead, the passengers will be escorted to the welcome center in the arrival area. The bags will be processed in a dedicated facility through a state-of-the-art baggage handling system that can track each piece until it is delivered to the owner at their selected destination,” said Abdulaziz Al-Abdan, aviation operations director, RSI airport. 

Additionally, the airport will apply discreet and non-intrusive security arrangements and procedures, enhancing the overall customer experience without infringing any regulatory requirements governing such operations. 

Furthermore, RSI will be the first and only airport in the Middle East and North Africa that serves amphibious seaplanes and is linked to water aerodromes. 

The airport features a dedicated runway for seaplanes and small general aviation aircraft operations, allowing direct air access to the Red Sea destinations. 

“Our aviation team worked closely with the General Authority of Civil Aviation to establish the regulatory framework for water aerodromes, seaplanes and water runways,” said Al-Abdan.

The regulatory framework resulted in the introduction and enforcement of a new set of safety regulations that govern the establishment and operations of water aerodromes GACA Regulations Part 137, as well as agreeing on the certifications for Red Sea Air Services Co. to operate seaplanes and water runways.

 

 




Ammar Ghaith, associate airport infrastructure director, RSI, said the airport will be the
first and last impression of all their distinguished guests.

Magnificent by design

What makes RSI different is it is a high-end tourist destination airport and not a regular civil airport. The scope of its operations includes mobility and hospitality services that begin when guests arrive at the airport until they finally check in to their hotels.

“The airport is an extension to the exclusive resorts at the Red Sea and will be the first and last impression of all our distinguished guests,” said Ammar Ghaith, associate airport infrastructure director, RSI.

It has a unique design with efficient space planning that allows for fewer steps to complete the arrival or departure process, besides minimum human intervention and shortest processing times.

The airport has partnered with key stakeholders to facilitate its flight procedures and airspace networks.

The stakeholders include GACA, Saudi Air Navigation Services, airport aviation consultant United ATS, FlyNas, FlyAdeal, TRSDC Operations, Red Sea Air Services Co., airside contractor Nesma Almabani Joint Venture, water runway consultant Jacobs and airport operator DAA International.

Mobility like never before

Ground and sea-based local mobility to resorts will be by more-sustainable electric vehicles chosen over petrol or diesel engine vehicles.

In the case of air taxis, although initially planned to be by conventional amphibious seaplanes, the airport has a dedicated secondary runway, which will be an early adopter of hydrogen-powered seaplane variants and eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft technology.

While eVTOL is the acronym for electric vertical takeoff and landing technology, eSTOL is electric short takeoff and landing type aircraft.

This approach will enable guests and their baggage to travel quickly, quietly and sustainably to and from resorts with style and pure spectacle.

The air taxi terminal is scheduled to open next year, initially to be used for a combination of air taxi, domestic and general aviation for guest access to the first tranche of hotels. The iconic main terminal building will provide international commercial aviation capability and capacity for successive hotel delivery and operation tranches.

The flight testing initiated recently is a necessary step for all new airports where a purpose-built aircraft laden with specialist equipment maneuvers new runways to test the visual and instrument aids and systems. In addition, it enables pilots to conduct safe and efficient takeoffs and landings in diverse weather and other operating conditions.

Shoring up responsibly

“There has been a quantum leap in recent years in sensitive delivery in this region, in terms of how we approach, plan, deliver and operate facilities like these,” Stratford explained.

“This is, across the board, from the culture of caring for the workforce, environmental protection, processes, quality of product, respect of time and cost. The wider team and I are passionate about ensuring that projects like this are delivered responsibly,” he added.

Stratford earlier lived in TRSP Construction Village Housing accommodation alongside many of the 1,800 contractors’ staff for the airport. He relocated this year to the Coastal Village Residences, where the TRDSC offices, management hotels, apartments, villas and townhouses have accepted staff, suppliers and visitors in the final construction stages of TRSP ahead of the phased opening of the resorts to tourists next year.

“Striving for high standards has been key to the timeliness and quality of delivery of the airport facilities so far,” Stratford said. “Indeed, the airport project has passed nine million safe man-hours worked without a lost time injury.”

TRSDC’s approach aligns with the national and industry leadership mandate that aviation development is a critical enabler of economic growth and should focus on environmental and sustainability implications and challenges.

Stratford added: “Besides providing iconic and progressive facilities in form and function, we have considered sustainability and the environment from the outset.

“For the airfield construction, the contractors have met the highest standards and expectations that I have seen in my career — impact assessments, permitting, monitoring and reporting are taken seriously. The team’s culture, pride, passion, professionalism and care play their part.”

Construction is underway on the passenger terminal facilities, with building structural and envelope packages awarded and commenced. TRSP will be entirely off-grid, including the airport, powered by a solar farm and the world’s largest battery storage facility.

Going high on ratings

Additionally, the airport passenger terminal facilities have followed industry-leading LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the rating system used by the US Green Building Council to measure a building’s sustainability and resource efficiency.

“We have aimed high for a Platinum Rating,” emphasized Stratford. “The detailed design-stage preliminary rating suggests we are on track for a Gold Rating or better, to be confirmed through construction and operation.”

He added: “We have been driven toward requirements, selection of materials, methods, equipment, energy and resources reduction and reuse.”

In theory, some 15 percent of the aviation industry’s carbon challenge is associated with the ground-based airport infrastructure, and the other 85 percent is associated with jet aircraft and flight.

“We’re mindful of our part of the aviation sustainability and carbon challenge, and what we can do with practices and technology of the day, but also looking to what we can do to facilitate emergent technologies and practices,” Stratford informed.

For example, RSI is planning infrastructure for sustainable aviation fuels, ground power and preconditioned air, use of resources and energy-efficient operational practices.


Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
  • More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise

CAIRO: Saudi banks shut down 42 branches over the year ending in June, revealed the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

The number of bank branches in Saudi Arabia also inched lower to 1,927 in the second quarter this year from 1,932 in the same quarter last year.

So, what are the reasons behind this decreased number of bank branches, and when did this trend begin?

The most common assumption would be the COVID-19 pandemic and its prolonged effect on the entire economy, including the financial and banking sectors.

Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2021, which includes the peak of the pandemic, 68 branches were closed. 

Also, bank branches continued to decrease quarterly long after lifting COVID-19 restrictions, albeit there was no clear trend.

Between May 2020 and June this year, 137 bank branches in the Kingdom shut shop.

It is worth mentioning that branches that have closed are not second-tier or underperforming banks but some of the largest and well-performing ones. For instance, Al Rajhi Bank, which had 543 branches in the fourth quarter of 2020, reduced it to 515 by June this year.

While COVID-19 sparked the digital revolution, advanced and innovative technologies did the job.

The past three years of the pandemic slowly began the transformation toward digital banking, which can be seen closely in the Saudi banking sector.

More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise.

Last February, SAMA licensed and welcomed the Kingdom’s third digital bank D360 Bank, following the launch of STC and Saudi Digital Bank in June last year.

Similarly, according to SAMA, 19 Saudi fintech companies have been authorized to provide payment services, consumer microfinance and electronic insurance brokerage over the past few months.

So, what does the future of digital banking in the Kingdom hold and will the population accept this digital revolution?

In a survey conducted by Ipsos in the Kingdom in October 2021, the research major pointed out that 61 percent still trust traditional banks, while 47 percent counted on mobile service providers and 40 percent depended on popular digital brands to carry out financial transactions.

The report added: “63 percent said that they will be making all their financial transactions through digital banking in the future, and 58 percent believe that people would no longer use cash as a payment method.”


Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
Updated 15 August 2022

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
  • The daily A380 flights will replace a Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats per flight
  • The announcement comes as the airline celebrates 20 years of flying to the city in Western Australia

LONDON: Emirates announced that it will reintroduce its flagship Airbus A380 on daily flights between Dubai and Perth from Dec. 1, as it ramps up its services to Australia in response to growing demand.

The A380 service to the city in Western Australia will replace the airline’s current daily Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats on each flight.

Flight EK420 from Dubai will depart at 2:45 a.m. and arrive in Perth at 5.20 p.m. the same day, while flight EK421 will take off from Perth at 10:20 p.m. and land in Dubai at 5:25 a.m. the following day.

Nearly 6 million passengers have flown with Emirates between Perth and Dubai since its inaugural flight between the cities in August 2002, according to the airline, on more more than 24,000 flights traveling more than 220 million kilometers.

The airline said there has been a significant increase in passenger bookings to and from Australia of late, with significant demand across all cabins, in particular since the introduction on Aug. 1 of a Premium Economy service on one of its daily Sydney services.

It comes as Emirates celebrates 20 years of flying to Perth. During this time, Emirates said it has also been a long-standing supporter of arts, culture and sporting institutions in Western Australia, investing in a variety of initiatives.

The airline added that Emirates SkyCargo, its cargo division, has also been a significant contributor to the local economy, carrying exports of Australian fruit and vegetables, meat and mining equipment to destinations throughout the airline’s global route network, including the Middle East, Europe and beyond.


Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October
Updated 15 August 2022

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

LONDON: Heathrow airport said on Monday it was extending its capacity limit through most of October to reduce the chaos caused by a post-pandemic surge in passengers amid a lack of staff.

Europe’s largest airport introduced a cap of 100,000 departing passengers per day in July, which was originally slated to have expired at the end of September.

“Since the cap was introduced, passenger journeys have improved with fewer last-minute cancelations, better punctuality and shorter wait times for bags,” said Heathrow.

It said the extension through Oct. 29 “will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways.”

Airlines scheduled thousands of flights in Europe this summer season to capture a boom in travel demand following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

But having cut back staff drastically during the pandemic, both airlines and airports found it difficult to hire enough employees.

This led to long waits to check-in, clear security and collect bags in many airports across Europe, as well as to cancelations of flights due to lack of crew.

The Heathrow cap was set at roughly 4,000 passengers per day fewer than scheduled flight capacity.

Airlines have canceled flights in response to the cap, as well as in recognition of their staffing levels.

Heathrow said it was regularly reviewing the situation and would remove the cap early if it sees an improvement.

“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve,” Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer Ross Baker said.

Amsterdam and Frankfurt airports have also instituted caps.


Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8 percent in 2021 as compared to the previous year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

The agricultural output during the period was valued at SR72.25 billion ($19.23 billion) — the highest in more than five years — as compared to SR67.05 billion in the previous year.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture attributed this growth to its strategies implemented in line with Vision 2030. In addition to that recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic also helped the sector’s growth, the ministry added.

The Kingdom’s agriculture output in 2017 was estimated at SR65.29 billion, around SR65.49 billion in 2018, and SR66.20 billion in 2019.

It recorded around SR67.05 billion in 2020, noting that the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product in general amounted to 2.3 percent last year, while the contribution of agricultural output to non-oil GDP was 3.6 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to 2020.

The ministry highlighted that the Kingdom’s balance of trade achieved a surplus of SR462.5 billion, an increase from the year 2020, which recorded SR134.5 billion, due to increased exports during 2021. The agricultural exports amounted to SR13.16 billion.


PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion
Updated 15 August 2022

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International have invested $900 million in Aman Group to help accelerate the global expansion of the hospitality and lifestyle brand management company.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction of the pipeline of Aman and Janu destinations, as well as support the acquisition and development of additional sites, according to a statement issued on Monday. 

Following the new funding, the company is now valued at over $3billion.

Aman is a renowned collection of 34 hotels across 20 countries, 12 of which include Aman Branded Residences, with nine further hotels and residences projects under construction and a committed pipeline of additional destinations in countries including USA, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and European destinations, among others. 

Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group, said: “The investment from PIF and Cain International is a vote of confidence in my vision and the work the team has done over the last eight years, cementing the brand’s evolution and ability to deliver this vision at pace.”

Commenting on the investment, Turqi Al-Nowaiser, deputy governor and head of International Investments Division at PIF, said: “The investment is in line with PIF’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally.”

“We are excited to be investing in this phenomenal brand and look forward to building upon our longstanding partnership with Vlad and his team,” said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co- founder of Cain International.