The first commercial flight landed on 29 May at Jeddah’s new King Abdulaziz International airport, marking the beginning of a four-phase launch plan for the $7.2bn facility.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) expects the airport to enter full commercial operations early next year, according to local media reports.

Gaca is presiding over the airport’s soft launch following the termination in February of the 20-year operation and management contract it awarded in April 2017 to Changi Airports Saudi Arabia (Casa), a joint venture of Singapore-based Changi Airports International (CAI) and local firm Saudi Naval Services.

Casa is understood to have established the management team for the new airport and was preparing for the airport’s Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer (Orat) programme when the contract was terminated on 21 February.

Prior to the cancellation of the contract, Gaca said it was aiming for the new airport to become operational before the hajj season commences in August.

Gaca did not specify a reason for the contract’s termination and is yet to retender the contract, which has been tendered twice.

King Abdulaziz International airport is Saudi Arabia’s largest in terms of passenger traffic, handling 34 million passengers in 2017, a 9 per cent increase on 2016.

The airport redevelopment began in 2010 when Gaca awarded local Saudi Binladin Group two contracts worth a combined $7.2bn for the overhaul of the existing airport terminal and the construction of a new one. The new terminal has a design capacity of 30 million passengers annually.

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