Region's airport operators are preparing for a massive expansion in capacity that will turn more Gulf airports into Heathrow-style hubs.
The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is witnessing substantial year-on-year increases in both passenger and cargo volumes. Regional airport providers are preparing to spend $60bn over the next five years on upgrading and expanding infrastructure to cope with increasing traffic. A large percentage of this capital is being invested in technology, an essential part of the toolkit of handling large passenger numbers.
According to Geneva-based Sita, a specialist in air transport communications and IT, $5bn of the 560bn will be devoted to technology solutions designed to increase operational efficiencies, improve the passenger experience and bolster security at airports.
Regionally, there have been sizeable year-on-year increases in passenger numbers. According to data from the Beirut-headquartered Arab Air Carriers Organisation, airport traffic in Arab countries doubled in the eight years to 2011 to 224 million.
Although political unrest resulting from the Arab uprisings of 2011 ended the double-digit annual growth, with passenger traffic increasing just 0.3 per cent that year, numbers are expected to pick up again in 2012.
Major regional hubs have already witnessed impressive increases this year. Dubai International airport reported a 13.7 per cent rise in traffic to 27.9 million passengers during the first six months of 2012, compared with 24.5 million passengers registered during the corresponding period in 2011.
"We are on track to meet the annual projected traffic of 56.5 million passengers, which will bring us very close to Dubai International's operational capacity of 60 million passengers per …