Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced plans to transform Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport into a mega-airport with six parallel runways, capable of handling 185 million passengers annually by 2050. It is a part of the $1 trillion investment being made by Saudi Arabia to turn the country into a tourism hotspot.
According to the state news agency SPA, the airport will cover an area of approximately 57 square kilometres (22 square miles). The new airport is expected to accommodate up to 120 million travellers annually by 2030, and up to 185 million travellers annually by 2050. It is also expected to handle up to 3.5 million tons of cargo annually by 2050. The mega airport would be named the King Salman International Airport and is expected to become one of the largest airports in the world.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund will build the airport and include the current airport. It will feature six parallel runways and also include the existing terminals named after King Khalid. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current King Khalid airport, which features two runways, handled around 28 million passengers annually.
Furthermore, the new airport is expected to contribute 27 billion Saudi riyals ($7.2 billion) annually to non-oil GDP and to create 103,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“The airport project is in line with Saudi Arabia’s vision to transform Riyadh to be among the top ten city economies in the world and to support the growth of Riyadh’s population to 15–20 million people by 2030.”State News Agency SPA
A Hub For Saudi’s New Airline
In addition, the new airport will also include 12 square kilometres of airport support facilities, residential and recreational facilities, retail outlets, and other logistics real estate. It will also be home to Saudi Arabia’s new mega-airline, which is expected to launch in the foreseeable future. The kingdom is already in talks with Airbus and Boeing on orders for SAUDIA and the new airline.
Even though no budget has been disclosed for the project yet, it is being reported that the Public Investment Fund’s aviation department is getting hefty funds to create an ecosystem of cargo and passenger airlines, repair companies and airports.
Saudi Arabia’s new airport would be heavily dependent on international transit passengers, similar to the Dubai International Airport. However, only time will tell if the country would be able to convince passengers to transit through Saudi Arabia.
“It will become an aerotropolis centred around a seamless customer journey, world-class efficient operations, and innovation. Riyadh’s identity and the Saudi culture will be taken into consideration in the airport’s design to ensure a unique travel experience for visitors and transit travellers,” states Vision 2030 objectives.