Sharjah: The Sharjah International Airport is close to starting construction of a Dh500 million CAT III runway, an airport official said.
Abdul Wahab Al Roumi, director-general of Sharjah's Department of Civil Aviation, told Gulf News yesterday that the airport was being developed and the existing runway would be renovated after the new one becomes operational in 18-24 months.
The new runway will be as long as the existing one — 4,000 metres — and will be 250 metres away from it.
Al Roumi said the development would include another tier with holding lounges and an air bridge.
"We have developed and installed up-to-date CC cameras with the latest control room, and the development will continue," Al Roumi said.
Additional car parks were also being planned, he said.
He said that new roads outside the airport are also being considered and the authorities are discussing the idea with consultants.
Fuelling most of the airport's growth is its flagship carrier Air Arabia.
Last year, the airline carried 4.1 million passengers, mostly through Sharjah, an increase of 14.2 per cent over the previous year.
The emirate has allowed the airline to expand further to the point that it serves 65 routes in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia from three hubs in the UAE, Morocco and Egypt.
"Air Arabia has played a great role in the growth of the airport [in bringing traffic]," Al Roumi said.
Between January and August this year, Sharjah International Airport handled 104.2 million passengers, a 10.5 per cent increase over the same time last year.
Aircraft movements jumped nine per cent to 44,000 and cargo rose 30 per cent to 300,000 tonnes. Airlines fly to almost 90 destinations from the airport that handles about 200 flights per day.
In a recent expansion, the airport increased the size of its duty free shopping area by 500 per cent, and the number of check-in counters to 43. It has also seen security upgrades. Additionally, Air Arabia's new hotel is under construction in the airport area, to be managed by Rotana.
The airport expansion is also designed to handle the rising number of tourists to the emirate.
GCC tourists remain the top visitors, according to the latest report by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Department.
Sharjah Airport was opened in 1977. It replaced an airport closer to the city that was opened in 1932 for use by Imperial Airways, and which was used by the Royal Air Force until December 14, 1971.
The old airport's runway is now part of King Abdul Aziz Street in the city centre.