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Irish airports company set to manage Saudi terminal

By John Mulligan

Published 06/01/2016

Concerns: Colm O’Gorman
Concerns: Colm O’Gorman

The international arm of the DAA - the semi-state company that 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.

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. But 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 than Dublin Airport.

The figure was 6.8% 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. That's roughly the same capacity as Dublin's Terminal 2.

It's costing an estimated $400m (£272m) and is being jointly constructed, and includes the 100,000 square metre passenger terminal and a 90,000 sq m car park.

When the terminal opens in the coming months, passenger traffic from the airport's Terminal 3 will transfer to it. Terminals 3 and 4 at the airport will then be redeveloped in a $2.9bn project. That scheme is due to be completed next year.

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, as Saudi Arabia has been roundly criticised for executing 47 people last Saturday, including the beheading of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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