Dubai: The head of the Sharjah Airport Authority on Sunday said there are plans to build a new passenger terminal at the Sharjah International Airport in a move that will increase the airport’s capacity to 25 million passengers by 2021.

Construction of the new terminal is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019, with the first phase of the airport — an arrivals area — set to open in 2021. The full project is expected to be ready by 2025, according to Shaikh Faisal Bin Saud Al Qasimi, director of the authority.

In an interview with Gulf News at the Arabian Travel Market exhibition, Al Qasimi said the authority is currently working on the design of the new terminal. It has already awarded a contract worth Dh51.5 million to Parsons International to manage the project.

When completed, the terminal will span 125,000 square metres, and will house commercial outlets and duty free stores.

It is part of a Dh1.5 billion expansion plan to allow Sharjah’s airport to welcome more passengers as the emirate works to boost its tourism sector and attract more visitors to Sharjah.

Earlier this year, the media reported that the authority plans to open a new passenger terminal in April 2018 and that construction on the project was almost complete.

Al Qasimi on Sunday confirmed that construction was yet to begin on the project.

The authority is now in talks with airlines about establishing or increasing their presence at Sharjah International Airport.

“We have many meetings with several airlines. Some of them are already operating to Sharjah Airport and some of them are studying our proposals. We are trying to find the best connectivity from and into Sharjah,” the director said.

He added that connectivity was a key issue that the authority was aiming to boost at Sharjah Airport in order to attract more passengers, given that the airport is only kilometres away from Dubai International Airport, the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passengers.

“We are working closely with our home-based carrier, Air Arabia, to offer new destinations... and we’re working to increase our airline network,” Al Qassimi said.

In the first quarter of 2018, 2.88 million passengers used Sharjah International Airport, marking a 5.1 per cent increase year-on-year, according to figures issued on Sunday. This brings the average monthly traffic in the quarter to over 960,000 passengers, up from 913,000 passengers in the same quarter of 2017.