Tuesday 20 March 2018

Irish team on brink of deal to operate new Saudi airport terminal

Riyadh International Airport
Riyadh International Airport
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The international arm of the DAA, which operates Dublin and Cork airports, is poised to sign a major deal to manage a new terminal at Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

It's a significant win for the DAA, which is understood to be still locked in contract negotiations.

Yesterday, the chairman of Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Faisal Al-Sugair, confirmed at a press conference in Riyadh that DAA International has been selected to run the new terminal 5 at the airport, according to news agencies.

A spokesman for the DAA said he could not comment on the reports.

However, it's believed the contract for the management of the terminal should be signed soon.

King Khalid International Airport handled 22.3m passengers in 2015, making it just slightly smaller in volume terms compared to Dublin Airport. The figure was 6.8pc higher than in 2014.

The total passenger numbers are almost evenly split between international and domestic traffic, with 11.7 million domestic passengers and 10.6 million international passengers.

The new terminal 5 will handle domestic traffic only, and have a capacity of 12 million passengers a year. Dublin's Terminal 2 can handle up to 15 million a year.

The new Riyadh terminal is costing an estimated $400m (€372m) and is being jointly constructed by Turkey's TAV Construction and Al Arrab Contracting. The project includes the 100,000 sq m passenger terminal and a 90,000 sq m carpark.

Once the terminal opens in coming months, passenger traffic from the airport's terminal 3 will transfer to it. Terminal 3 and 4 at the airport will then be redeveloped in a $2.9bn project.

Saudi Arabia's GACA is also drafting a shortlist of international operators for a concession to run the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

But the DAA International contract win comes with unfortunate timing.

Saudi Arabia has been roundly criticised for executing 47 people last Saturday, including the beheading of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. That enraged Iran, and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with its neighbour on Sunday.

Colm O'Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said that the Saudi authorities continue to violate the human rights of the country's people.

He said that an EU action plan on human rights demands that all member states promote human rights in all areas of external action "particularly in trade and investment".

There are plans to eventually privatise Riyadh's King Khalid Airport. Faisal Al-Sugair said yesterday that foreign companies will eventually be permitted to invest in Saudi Arabia's airports without the need for a local partner.

The DAA's international arm had its first full year of operations in 2014. It was established by the semi-state to provide a range of airport management, operational and advisory services. Among its units is a training academy, which provides services to other airport and aviation clients.

The DAA contract win in Saudi Arabia comes on the heels of a major contract win for its Aer Rianta International division.

It won a 10-year contract last month to operate duty free operations across a number of key retail categories at a new terminal being built at Abu Dhabi's airport. The contract begins in 2017.

Irish Independent

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