These are exciting times for Kuwait International Airport (KIA) and its airport
authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). With an
increasingly vibrant economy driving both passenger and cargo traffic,
Kuwait’s number one international gateway is scaling new heights.
In 2011, the airport handled almost 8.5 million passengers – another record-breaking performance and a 2% increase over 2010. Airfreight too is consolidating with over 195,000 tonnes passing through the KIA cargo facilities annually. KIA’s aprons now host more than 45 different regional and international carriers serving over 80 destinations.
A major driver for that traffic growth is the DGCA’s “Open Skies” policy, introduced in 2006, which aims to liberalise the bilateral arrangements governing air traffic operations with other countries. The policy is in accordance with the vision of the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to develop Kuwait into a commercial and business hub for the region.
The “Open Skies” policy has prompted many existing carriers – both passenger and cargo – to increase flights to and from Kuwait, as well as attracting new carriers.
A significant factor in airline success has been the DGCA’s decision to liberalise ground services at Kuwait International Airport, allowing National Aviation Services to enter the market alongside Kuwait Airways. Excellent service quality and competitive prices are hallmarks of the airport’s ground operations.
Such dynamic growth engenders an equally dynamic response and the DGCA’s top management has risen to the challenge. Although to date the airport’s operational efficiency has enabled it to ride the often double-digit annual traffic increases, the runaway success of the gateway has made major expansion inevitable.
Operations at the current 30km2 airport site, located in the Mugwa area 16km south of Kuwait City, began in 1961. The existing terminal building, opened in 1980, features three levels together with a basement, covering a total of 40,000m2. There are 10 contact stands, 40 remote stands and additional parking spaces for cargo, VIP and VVIP aircraft. Aircraft movement is aided by two parallel, staggered runways. Currently, the east runway is 3,500m long and asphalt surfaced while the west runway is 3,400m in length and has a concrete surface. Cargo terminals are situated to the north-west of the passenger terminal.
Numerous significant service enhancements have already been introduced. The stunning Airport Mall, located on both arrivals and departure levels, has been continually updated since opening in 2002/3. Soaring spaces encompassing the widest range of shopping concessions and food and beverage outlets provide the perfect ambience for travellers and airport visitors.
Airside, Duty Free has also been remodelled, allowing shoppers to browse both local products and internationally-renowned brands in spacious and comfortable surroundings. New executive lounges introduced by Kuwait Airways and National Aviation Services cater to an ever-increasing number of premium passengers.
The DGCA has also instigated a comprehensive programme of technological, navigational and communication upgrades for Kuwaiti airspace. But though the image and infrastructure of the airport is constantly changing, what has gone before is a drop in the ocean compared with the breathtaking assortment of improvements planned for the future through the KIA Master Plan.
The airport will be transformed into a state-of-theart 21st century aviation hub thanks to a stunning array of developments including:
- A new state-of-the-art second passenger terminal.
- Extensions to both existing runways.
- A new third runway.
- Revitalised cargo facilities; and
- Far-reaching technological improvements including new navigation and communications systems.
Ultimately, KIA will cover 38km2 and be capable of handling 50 million passengers and 6 million tonnes of cargo. The enhancements will further cement KIA’s position as a regional hub and a world-class gateway, taking the airport’s success story to a new level. The KIA of the future will be a fitting showcase of Kuwait’s emergence as a powerful player in commercial and tourism markets and a signature landmark that will make an impressive first, and last, impression on visitors to this dynamic nation. The airport of tomorrow is spreading its wings, ready to take flight into a new aviation era.