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ALL SET: Al-Ahsa airport will open to international traffic in the near future.Al-Ahsa airport has almost completed the process to acquire the status of international airport. International flights are expected to takeoff from Al-Ahsa soon.
Two important features for an international airport are now almost complete, sources told Arab News. The Directorate General of Passports has approved hiring additional staff. A process is under way to link the computer systems of the National Information Center (NIC) with the immigration counters of Al-Ahsa airport. Sources said that customs authorities have almost completed their required formalities.
Khalid Al-Khaibary, general manager of the Media section of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), told to Arab News "most formalities have been completed. We are awaiting a nod from the tripartite committee to start international flights." He declined to specify a time frame.
Al-Ahsa is situated at a strategically important location. Its proximity to Qatar and Bahrain on one side and Dubai on the other side, makes Al-Ahsa an ideal place to serve as an international airport. Many Saudi citizens shuttle regularly between neighboring Qatar and Bahrain and they demand semi international connectivity. Al-Ahsa is also close to the world's largest conventional oilfield, Ghawar. Employees of Aramco depend on Al-Ahsa airport for their transportation needs.
Nearly 50 percent of passengers that use Dammam's King Fahd International Airport and 17 percent of Bahrain Airport users hail from Al-Ahsa area, in addition to significant clientele of Qatar Airways. Currently, Saudi Arabian Airlines operates only two flights a week to Riyadh and Jeddah in low season and four flights during summer and holiday season.
GACA formally approved Al-Ahsa airport's international status in 2011. The airport is expected to grow by 300,000 passengers per annum between 2015 and 2020, a GACA study predicted.
Authorities had developed the airport accordingly, expanding apron and aircraft parking facilities and also increasing the lounges from 4,000 square meters to 6,310.
Al-Ahsa is expected to attract a large volume of investments in the next couple of years in various sectors. These include Salwa Industrial City for Women, which will be built in an area of 300 million square meters and is expected to attract investments of over SR1.5 billion. The development of Aqeer tourism project at a cost of SR3.5 billion will also need an international airport in the area. Ghawar oilfields have more than 80 percent of the oil reserves of the Kingdom. Around 300,000 expatriate workers live in the area.
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