Sharjah Airport Authority's chairman opens up on SIA's expansion

H.E. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority, to discuss the ongoing expansion project for Sharjah International Airport
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H.E. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority (SAA).
H.E. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority (SAA).

Since opening its doors back in 1977, Sharjah International Airport (SIA) has established itself as a renowned aerodrome, boasting impressive connections to key destinations across the world — particularly those in the Middle East, Europe, Southern Asia
and Africa.

Boasting one of the region’s longest runways at 4,060-metres in length, and serving as the home to MENA’s first low-cost carrier Air Arabia, SIA has over the years incorporated a bevvy of internationally renowned airlines into its regular schedule of chartered flights.

This includes airlines such as Egyptair, Indigo Airlines and Air India Express, as well as cargo carriers Lufthansa Cargo AG and Singapore Airlines Cargo, to name a few.

SIA’s proximity to nearby emirates and the fact that its neighbouring roadways connect directly into the UAE’s main highways, has also played an important factor in the airport’s increasing popularity with both business and leisure travellers.

Looking back at, the performance results compiled and released by the Sharjah Airport Authority (SAA) displayed positive figures across the board in what could be one of the airport’s highest performing years.

According to the airport authority, SIA received over 11.3 million passengers and 77,627 flights, and even reported an increase in passenger traffic by 327,000 passengers, as compared to the previous year.

“The results of 2017 indicate the continued growth in passenger traffic, aircraft movements and cargo operations. These are indicators for the potential of SIA and the civil aviation sector in general, towards achieving economic and tourism growth of the Emirate of Sharjah,” comments H.E. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority (SAA).

We anticipate that given the level of growth we have already experienced within the last two years, the rate of growth will continue in 2018, as we maintain our focus on growing passenger traffic, maintaining navigation and trading routes, and providing world-class services and facilities to our key stakeholders.”

The Chairman went on to highlight other key developments over the past year, which included the signing of two commercial agreements with Gama Aviation Services. The first allows Gama Aviation to build and operate a new $29.95m (AED 110m) private terminal at SIA, while the second enables Gama to operate all ground handling services for private aircraft and business aviation at the airport.

H.E. Al Midfa also noted the addition of new destinations at SIA last year, which include Russian Airlines’ inaugural flights from St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, along with Indigo’s new route between Sharjah and Calicut, India.

The biggest development with SIA however, lies with the recent announcement of a $410m (AED 1.5bn) expansion project that will further extend the capabilities of the airport and increase its attractiveness to both travellers and airlines outside of the Middle East region.

Revealed back in February during the UAE Innovation Month, the four-year plan is focused not only on increasing the airport’s capacity but is committed to enhancing onsite services and day-to-day operations.

“We anticipate the airport’s new expansion will increase the capacity to hold passengers up to 20 million by 2027,” comments H.E. Al Midfa.

“In addition, we further predict the expansion will improve existing travel options and boost economic growth and job creation across various sectors in the emirate.”

Furthermore, as per the implementation of the directives of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, Sharjah Airport Authority has started working on building a new bridge for airport users. The new access will ease traffic flow and effectively facilitate the arrival of passengers and customers to SIA. By the end of 2017, 85% of the bridge was complete and will soon be
fully operational.

“SIA’s development plan also includes using modern facilities such as smart gateways that facilitate faster passenger movement and considerably shorten processing times,” explains H.E. Al Midfa.

One aspect of the airport’s infrastructure that SAA has already taken steps towards improving, and which has had a positive impact on the overall passenger experience, lies with the deployment of smart gates.

Helping to streamline the immigration process at both the arrival and departure halls, a total of 16 new smart gates have been installed at the terminal to date. Two of these smart gates have also been allocated to assisting people with disabilities, which H.E. Al Midfa shares, “underlines SIA’s commitment to providing the most appropriate services so that all passengers get to enjoy a comfortable travel experience.

SAA reports since the installation of the first units, over two million passengers have passed through the smart gates.

“Smart Gates provide the quickest way to pass through the immigration counters at SIA. The whole process takes less than 20 seconds and saves valuable time to ensure a smooth and seamless travel experience for passengers,” comments H.E. Al Midfa.

Since they were introduced, Smart Gates have helped speed-up passport control time by 70%, reduce waiting time and congestion, thereby improving the overall passenger experience,” he adds.

Another key part of the Sharjah International Airport’s infrastructure that has recently been revamped is the Duty Free shopping area.
Following a lengthy renovation project that concluded back in January 2018, SIA reopened its Duty Free shopping area that now spans 1,800
square metres.

In addition to extending the space around the original nine stores, the recent revamp is expected to entice high-profile global brands to establish a presence at the airport

“With the introduction of a diverse range of luxury products goods, souvenirs and services, and a striking new store space, we have taken travel retail to another level. We have also made a significant investment in our staff training to emphasise our dedication to customer service,” explains H.E. Al Midfa.

“As an end result, the renovation represents a “win-win” for our customers, passengers and retail partners. It provides the best services, world-class shopping and quality facilities to our passengers while enabling our Duty Free retail partners to benefit from the continued growth of passengers and customers in the future,” he adds.

When pressed on what were the key factors that led to the decision to improve the airport’s capacity and capabilities, SAA’s Chairman shares that the decision was taken in order to capitalise on the airport’s continued growth.

He adds that the current growth is influenced by the ongoing successes of both the inbound tourism industry, as well as recent developments from Air Arabia.

Another equally important factor lies with Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, the emirate’s ongoing initiative aimed at promoting collaboration with partners active in the tourism sector. Built upon four strategic pillars, the aim of the initiative is to draw 10 million tourists to the emirate by the year 2021.

According to SAA’s chairman, the upcoming development project falls under the second pillar Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, which is focused on a “innovative tourism approach to improve the tourist experience through the provision of innovative solutions.”

SIA’s relentless and ongoing efforts to attract and partner with airlines, local, regional and international government entities, global investors and retail service providers will help us to achieve Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021,” says H.E. Al Midfa.

“Our efforts will serve to significantly boost the number of passengers visiting the emirate, further improving the existing travel options and boosting economic growth and job creation across various sectors.

“The expansion is expected to enhance Sharjah’s tourism status, increasing the growing importance of SIA, and attracting a diversity of tourists from around the world, for whom our beautiful Sharjah has become a favourite destination,” he concludes.

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