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AMP fuses the vision of growth and transformation

Posted 11 February 2019 · Add Comment

The airport modernisation programme (AMP) currently taking place at Bahrain International Airport (BIA) is of such importance that it’s part of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision for the country. Dave Calderwood reports.

At a recent board meeting of the Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), which operates BAI, the king’s representative, His Excellency the Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Engineer Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, first praised the efforts of the team involved in delivering the AMP, then stressed the importance of maintaining the pace of the project’s progress.
No pressure then!
For BAC chief executive officer, Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah, who’s in charge of the AMP, it’s all part of the job.
Crunch time for Al Binfalah will come in the second quarter of 2019, when the operational readiness trials are expected to take place. These will involve all of the new passenger terminal building’s stakeholders, and put to the test all the work that’s taken place since contractors first moved on to the site in July 2015.
This is not a ‘tidy up and paint job’ on the airport. No, this is a $1billion programme that includes the construction of a 214,000sqm passenger terminal building and adjoining multi-storey car parks, access roads and forecourts, central utilities complex, new aircraft stands and rehabilitation of existing aircraft stands and taxi lane.
That’s just the fixed infrastructure. There’s also all the equipment to make an airport capable of mass transit, including baggage-handling systems, loading bridges, conveying systems, security-screening equipment, and information and communications technology.
All these systems, manufactured, delivered and installed by a multitude of suppliers, not only have to work, but also communicate with each other if they are to cope with the expected 14 million passengers a year.
Al Binfalah said: “Although BIA may not be the biggest airport in the region, we believe that the on-going revamp of its operations, facilities, services, and critical infrastructure, will put it at par with the best airports in the world.
“The AMP is a catalyst for transformation and growth that will maximise the aviation sector’s contribution to the economy, in line with Bahrain’s Vision 2030. Furthermore, it will cement BIA’s position as a leading regional hub, increase the kingdom’s global connectivity, and create new employment opportunities for its people.
“To achieve these important goals, we need to ensure the operational readiness of the new passenger terminal building and its on-schedule launch, which both hinge on the success of the operations readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) platform.”
All this construction and refitting is taking place while the existing airport continues to operate and grow, especially air cargo traffic.
Figures released in early 2018 showed a 10% growth in cargo during 2017, an important trend as the kingdom is attempting to grow its status as a logistics hub for the region.
New airlines are also connecting with BIA, including Ethiopian Airlines, Atlas Global Airlines, and Wataniya Airways, which not only means more landing fees but a greater footfall through the retail areas of the passenger terminal.
BAC’s financial results for 2017, released in May this year, are impressive with a BD12.9 million ($34m) net profit for 2017, compared to BD7.6 million the previous year. Revenue is split into aero (passenger service charges and landing fees, up 24%) and non-aero (retail concession income, up 14%).
Managing the business side of BAC is the responsibility of the chief commercial officer, Ayman Zainal. He explained the surge in revenues and profits: “The growth in aero revenue is attributable to an increase in passenger traffic and cargo activities at BIA. This reflects our efforts to enhance its services and to promote Bahrain as a hub for logistics services in the GCC and wider Middle East.
“The restructuring of BIA’s airport taxes, which are still well below others in the region, is also a significant factor.
“As for non-aero revenue, BAC reviewed its legacy concessions and aligned them with industry standard practices and rates. This not only resulted in revenue growth, it also created a more commercially oriented environment. Additionally, BAC made its under-utilised assets available for commercial use.
“While enhancing its existing products and concessions, BAC is also actively working on new key offerings at the new passenger terminal building, which is expected to open in late 2019.
“In addition, we are working on various initiatives to position BIA as a cargo hub in the region, including the expansion of its cargo infrastructure and services.
“The new cargo facilities, coupled with new retail and food and beverage (F&B) offerings at the new passenger terminal building, are expected to drive further revenue growth in the coming years.
“In simple terms, more passengers mean greater demand for retail goods and services. BAC’s strategy is to utilise the enhanced infrastructure and additional capacity by operating more flights out of BIA. This will result in more business in all areas, whether it is retail, F&B, passenger services, or cargo.
“We take great pride in calling the new passenger terminal building a ‘boutique airport’. Although it offers the same services and facilities as other regional airports, its relatively small size and ergonomic design will make BIA one of the most efficient airports in the region. Passengers enjoy an unparalleled sense of simplicity and comfort, and can traverse the terminal more quickly than at any other regional airport.”
Zainal continued: “BAC has invested heavily in improving its team and expanding its expertise, whether it is through direct recruitment or by obtaining the services of industry leaders. We believe this will help the company to identify opportunities and enhance the overall customer experience.
“BAC has also adopted the Tahleeq programme, which puts fresh graduates through training to become part of our team. This bridges the gap between the classical way of thinking and the innovative mindset of the younger generation, which provides another assurance that BAC is able to recognise all potential opportunities.”
An example of BAC’s expertise being recognised is the recent election of Najwa Abdul Rahim, the company’s vice president of information and communication technology, to the Airports Council International (ACI) world airport IT standing committee (WAITSC) following a successful nomination by BIA.
In this role, she will help to develop recommended practices and standards for airport IT, and promote the digitisation of airports across the world.
So, AMP looks to be on time, successfully working with current operations, and the finances look rosy. The airport’s vision – inspired by Bahrain’s welcoming culture and heritage – to create a friendly and efficient environment is succeeding.

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