Located just outside the Bahraini capital of Manama on the island of Muharraq, Bahrain International Airport (BIA) is the main international travel hub in the Kingdom. Established in 1927, it was the first international airport in the Persian Gulf. It caters to several airlines and has long served as a vital distribution hub to notable cargo companies, including DHL.
Recently, the Bahrain Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications, in partnership with the Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), initiated an Airport Modernization Program (AMP) to enhance BIA’s infrastructure and improve passenger experience. Below is a look at these improvements and other recent developments at the airport.
Opening of a New $1.1 Billion Terminal
The most significant project of the AMP is the new $1.1 billion terminal at BIA. Opened on January 28, 2021, the 210,000-square-meter terminal is four times the size of the old terminal and has eight baggage reclaim belts, more than 100 check-in counters, 36 passport control offices, and 20 e-gates. It also has more than 10,000 square meters of retail space, including a duty-free area that is three times the size of the one in the old terminal. Other amenities include a hotel and spa as well as an on-site clinic staffed with medical professionals. With the new terminal, BIA now has the capacity to handle as many as 14 million passengers per year.
The new terminal is also the headquarters for Gulf Air and features a Falcon Gold lounge and dedicated check-in area for economy and Falcon Gold Gulf Air passengers. The lounge includes a range of new features, including shower rooms, an area for prayer, and food and beverage concessions. It can accommodate more than 400 passengers.
“This milestone achievement is a prime example of cooperation between GCC countries,” said Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, chairman of the BAC and Minister of Transportation & Telecommunications. “The AMP is a pillar of the Bahrain government’s economic plan, which reaffirms the pioneering and historical position that the Kingdom enjoys in the aviation sector.” He noted that the airport represents a major investment in Bahrain’s infrastructure that will catalyze long-term growth in the tourism sector and in the broader national economy.
Other strategic projects that are part of the AMP include the construction of a private aviation terminal for small aircraft owners and business executives and a Fuel Farm Complex designed to strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a GCC leader in aviation fuel services.
BIA is equipped with modern technological solutions, which includes SITA’s Operations at Airports portfolio. A key element of this is the Flight Info Display Systems, which provides a dynamic platform for the efficient management of passenger flow.
The airport will also rely on SITA’s cloud-based passenger processing solution known as Flex. Integrated into SITA Smart Path kiosks, Flex allows for biometric-enabled check-in to limit contact between passengers and staff, which is of particular importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. A SITA baggage reconciliation system also helps limit human-to-human contact.
Gulf Air’s First Transcontinental Lower Emission Flight
Three months after it moved its operations to the new passenger terminal at BIA, Gulf Air reported its first transcontinental lower emission flight. Gulf Air’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departed from Helsinki, Finland, and arrived at BIA fueled solely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) provided by Neste. The historic flight was supported by the Bahrain Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications and Bahrain Petroleum Company.
Produced from sustainable feedstocks, SAF is similar in makeup to fossil jet fuel, yet it can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80 percent compared to its traditional counterpart. Neste’s SAF consists of 100 percent residue raw materials and renewable waste. Gulf Air intends to continue working with Neste to further integrate the use of SAF into its operations.
Record High Air Cargo Volume
According to the International Air Transport Association’s Air Cargo Market Analysis for December 2020, worldwide cargo tonne-kilometers decreased by 10.6 percent year-over-year, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effect on the global economy and distribution. International air cargo volumes also decreased by 11.8 percent in the same time frame. This, however, was not the case in Bahrain. In fact, BIA handled more than 300,000 tonnes of cargo last year, representing a 3.1 percent increase from 2019. This also marks a continuation of a trend that has been ongoing since 2015, during which time cargo tonnage has increased by 17 percent at BIA.
Noting that the airport has already demonstrated the ability to manage large cargo volumes, BAC chief commercial officer Ayman Zainal expects it to be even better positioned as a GCC leader in cargo transport, thanks to the new passenger terminal and the Express Cargo Village. This area features several warehouses and associated infrastructure as well as aircraft parking. It is part of the government’s plan to establish air cargo and logistics as one of the country’s premier industries.
Featured Image courtesy Frans Zwart | Flickr