Dubai/Manama: Following months of political unrest, a project to increase Bahrain International Airport's (BIA) capacity by 50 per cent was formally launched Monday in Manama.

It will see the airport handling 13.5 million passengers per annum by 2015, up from the current nine million, Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) said in a statement.

With Dar Al Handasah, one of the world's leading engineering and design practices, leading the 4.4 million dinar (Dh42.8 million) design phase of the expansion project, the initial phase is expected to take nine months to be completed, according to Bahrain Airport Company.

The expansion is in line with an estimated $90 billion (Dh330.5 billion) worth of investment lined up for the GCC's airport development over the next few years as the region aims to become a major global aviation hub. Bahrain airport development takes up around $335 million of this.

"The plans we are initiating for an expanded international airport are essential to Bahrain's continued development, not only in providing businesses in Bahrain with the access they demand for the future, but also in bolstering the growing aviation and logistics industry in the kingdom," BAC's Chairman, Khalid Al Rumaihi, said.


The move is welcome following the political unrest that slowed the country's growth earlier in the year.

Mohammad Thamir, vice-president of Airport Operations, BAC, recently told Gulf News: "The political unrest will not delay our airport expansion plans because it will be executed by a private company together with Bahrain Airport Company. But I am happy to say that it's now business as usual at Bahrain airport with security having been restored.

"In fact, during the unrest also, we did not close the airport for even one day or one hour. We continued to maintain normal operations throughout."

He added that the kingdom was in an "urgent need" to develop the airport in order to meet customers' expectations. "Once it's complete, it would totally change the face of Bahrain International Airport," Thamir said.

The expanded airport will increase opportunities for BAC to generate revenue, which can then be reinvested in the airport, Al Rumaihi said

The expansion is set to increase the airport's footprint by an additional 40,000 square metres, including more than 3,000 square metres of new retail facilities, according to BAC.