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Growth drives high-tech boost

Posted 21 December 2018 · Add Comment

A major renewal of the technological infrastructure at Saudi Arabia’s airports is under way. Alan Dron reports.

The Saudi aviation regulator, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), has asked Swiss IT provider SITA to install new airport management and communication technologies at 26 sites in the kingdom. The aim is to help the airports manage the rapidly increasing numbers of passengers using the facilities.
The liberalisation of Saudi Arabia’s domestic airline market, which has seen three new carriers open their doors over the past two years, is leading to growth of the marketplace as more citizens are enticed to fly, rather than drive, between cities.
In addition, the country is experiencing substantial growth in religious tourism, particularly through Jeddah and Medina airports, growth that is expected to continue in coming years.
Overall, passenger traffic through the country’s airport network grew to 92 million in 2017, a 7.7% rise over 2016.
“GACA has mapped out a clear future for Saudi airports, enabling us to meet our continued passenger growth while maintaining the world’s best airport facilities,” said Abdulhakim bin Muhammad Al-Tamimi, GACA’s president.
SITA “have worked closely with us to implement our requirements for each airport and provide the right solution”.
A major boost to the country’s airport capacity is arriving with the gradual opening of the new terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport at Jeddah, the nation’s commercial centre. The existing terminal is recognised as having become increasingly overcrowded in recent years and is operating well beyond its design capacity.
The new airport is in the midst of a multi-month ‘soft opening’, during which time more flights will gradually be transferred to it. The airport is due to be fully open by early 2019 and will initially be able to handle 30 million passengers a year, with future expansion phases able to increase that figure to 80 million.
To help make the most of the new terminal’s potential, SITA is deploying several systems there.
It is installing its airport management technology and flight information display system to provide real-time information across the airport that will help managers make the best possible use of resources. These will assist the airport’s operations personnel to anticipate events before they occur and allow them to plan for them. The airport management system will also be rolled out to 21 further Saudi airports by the end of 2018.
Jeddah’s new airport is also the site for the introduction of SITA’s Airport iValidate gates, which authenticate travellers’ documents and speed up passenger processing by verifying all types of boarding passes, including those previously printed at the passengers’ home or held in electronic format on their mobile devices.
This system will also be introduced at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.
Across GACA’s network of airports, meanwhile, SITA will install its AirportConnect open platform, which allows the use of common facilities for passengers checking themselves in at self-service kiosks. This will include the provision of biometric single-token travel and common-use payment systems.
Passengers will also have their airport experience significantly improved by the installation of two new systems.
Connectivity will be improved by the installation of new wide area network and local area network systems, which will enable travellers to connect to the internet more quickly and easily. Additionally, baggage-handling will be improved by a new system that will assist airlines’ ability to track luggage from check-in, through loading on to aircraft, transfer at intermediate airports, and eventual delivery to travellers at their destinations.
“Our investment in new technology underpins the development of smart airport infrastructure across Saudi Arabia and is an important part in realising GACA’s strategy of improving the passenger experience across its airport network,” said Engineer Suleiman Al Bassam, GACA’s vice-president for information technology & telecommunications.
“Time and again, we have seen how technology can transform an airport, improving the flow of passengers and, therefore, elevating the whole airport experience,” added Hani El-Assaad, SITA’s president, Middle East, India and Africa.

 

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