The expansion of Queen Alia’s International airport is set to continue with the demolition of the old terminal and extension of the concourse.

The construction works are due to begin imminently following the opening of the new terminal at the airport in Amman in March. All airlines were transferred to the new terminal by 31 March.

The new concourse forms part B of the first phase of the airport expansion. Construction is forecast to be completed within the next year and a half.

Once phase 1 is complete, the airport will be equipped to handle 9 million passengers a year. Currently the airport handles more than 6 million passengers a year. Under phase 2 of the expansion plans, the airport will see its capacity increased to handle 12 million passengers a year. Phase 2, however, will not begin until the airport reaches its full 9-million-passenger capacity, which is not expected to happen for another five years.

Phase 1a and 1b were tendered as a joint package, but phase 2 will be tendered separately.

Yet, there have been doubts raised about whether the capacity of the new airport will be fully utilised, given the current political instability in the country and the negative impact this has had on Jordan’s tourism industry.

“This is something that needs to be monitored,” says Javier Gonzalez, management associate, director of airports programme management, global aviation at the US firm Louis Berger. “There is the economic factor, the political factor; all these things need to be monitored. But if growth rates continue at the same pace, capacity will be reached in five years.”

Louis Berger is the engineering, procurement and construction independent engineer for the airport rehabilitation and expansion programme.

Jordan’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian, did run into some difficulties in recent years, posting losses in 2011 partly as a result of regional political problems. However, the airline has posted a profit in 2012 and carried 3.4 million passengers last year, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year.

Gonzalez also adds that the new airport is far from reliant on Royal Jordanian traffic, due to the rising number of low-cost carriers, such as Sharjah-based Air Arabia, opening up routes to Amman.

The emergence of the low-cost carriers was one of the reasons the scope of works for the new terminal was changed from the original scope set out in 2007.

The plans were adjusted to accommodate the faster than anticipated growth in passenger numbers.

Passenger traffic at the airport grew by 62 per cent between November 2007 and December 2012. In 2012, the airport recorded a 14.3 per cent growth in passengers, reaching 6.25 million passengers.

The Airport International Group (AIG), a Jordanian consortium of companies, and the joint venture of Joannou & Paraskevaides and J&P-AVAX, won the build, operate, transfer contract in 2007.