Sharjah International Airport set to take off with new runway opening

May 11--Airport looking to the future with new development strategies

With up to 200 flights being transferred from Dubai to Sharjah every week, 20 counters have been added at Sharjah International Airport for processing travel procedures. -- Supplied photo

Expecting to see 25 million passengers by 2025, Sharjah International Airport, the first in the UAE that opened in 1932, is set to operate a new capacious runway alongside the old one by September this year.

A senior official said the new airstrip is to suffice the future needs of the third-biggest airport in the UAE, particularly for large and new-generation Code-F aircraft such as the A380, apart from the expected 14 million passengers in 2017, and the already-one million tonnes of shipment capacity.

Ali Salem Al Midfa, member of the Sharjah Executive Council and chairman of Sharjah International Airport, said they opted for establishing the 4,060-metre long and 60-metre wide new flight strip against Dh500 million rather than maintaining the old one against Dh260 million.

Speaking to the members of the Sharjah Consultative Council as part of the 17th session of the eighth legislative chapter, Al Midfa said the airport saw 8,505,268 passengers in 2013, with an annual jump of around one million passengers.

"We have adopted an emergency plan, as of May 1 and for three months, to meet the pressing demand of flights and passengers after the partial 80-day closure of the Dubai International Airport runway for maintenance," he said.

Indicating that up to 200 flights are being transferred from Dubai to Sharjah every week, he said they added 20 counters for processing travel procedures, apart from a temporary 800-passenger tent, spanning four extra departure gates, with all facilities required, and 160 newly-recruited inspectors.

"The free car-parking period of the airport has been extended from 15 to 30 minutes to encourage better and more convenient use of the already-expanded facility," he said, while unveiling plans to build a multi-story parking lot there.

Official statistics show Sharjah International Airport, located 10km off Sharjah city and 15km off Dubai city, witnessed 6,306,698 passengers in 2010, 6,634,570 in 2011 and 7,516,538 in 2012.

"The airport, named Best Global Airport of the Year in 2005 by the Institute of Transport Management of London, saw 65,401 flights in 2010, 63,737 in 2011, 65,975 in 2012 and 66,247 in 2013," he said.

Al Midfa said they have assigned Gama Aviation, an air charter company, as an official private service provider. "The international company shall develop this important sector in the airport."

Sharjah International Airport has further contracted Bechtel, one of the most respected engineering, construction and project management companies, to do a thorough development plan for the airport.

"The eight-month plan, to be ready this September, will identify the expansion trends of infrastructure projects in the airport and surrounding northern or southern areas," he said, adding that the only bridge leading to the airport, even used by residents around, is to be developed soon to meet the pressing demand. Al Midfa said they spare no effort to boost Emiratisation at the airport. The airport, other than adopting the shift-based work system, has launched several strategic initiatives to attract UAE nationals and offer intensive training courses.

"Some 90 to 95 per cent of senior managing positions are now being held by Emiratis while other technical and specialised departments are localised by 50 to 65 per cent to ensure smooth and effective flow of operations."

The five per cent Emiratisation in SAS company, a major service provider recruiting 2,000 employees, let alone other operating companies here, shall be increased at least 10 per cent every year, he added, noting that there are proposals to establish an aviation college to educate and train national cadres.

Copyright 2014 - Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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