The new upgraded King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah will open for full operations in mid-2017, according to the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), the country's regulatory body.
Construction on the new facility and testing of all equipment would be completed at the end of 2016, said Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, GACA's director general and chairman of Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), a local publication reported.
Al-Hamdan on Thursday laid the foundation stone for a new Saudia building in the support area next to the airport's new building. Saleh Al-Jasser, director general of Saudia , was also present at the ceremony.
At a press conference later on Thursday in the operations building, Al-Jasser said the SR350 million Saudia facility would also be ready by mid-2017, as part of its strategic program that includes fleet development, expansion of its flight network, and installation of the latest information technology.
Al-Jasser said the new building would allow Saudia to administer all operations under one roof. The plan is eventually to increase the number of flights from 500 to 1,000 a day, which would be one of the highest airline operations in the world, he said.
He said the Kingdom's airports would increase the number of passengers they handle from the current figure of 28 million to 45 million by 2020, a goal that has been laid down in GACA's operational plan.
On privatization, he said Saudia has taken significant steps in certain areas including supplies and types of services, and setting up companies with shares owned by the public.
Al-Jasser said the entry of a third airline company in Saudi Arabia was no problem for Saudia and would be good for competition. He was referring to the plan by Qatar Airways to launch Al-Maha airline company to operate along local routes in the Kingdom.
Al-Maha would reportedly initially operate flights from Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Abha and Qassim. Qatar Airways already operates international flights between Doha and Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Taif, Qassim, Al-Ahsa and Madinah.