The General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has finalised plans to expand the kingdom’s largest airport in three phases, culminating in 2035. The site will ultimately have capacity for up to 80 million passengers a year, leaving it second only to Dubai’s planned Al-Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali.

Preliminary designs have been put in place for three new X-shaped terminals, each formed from two crescent-shaped buildings placed back-to-back. The first phase of construction will raise capacity to 30 million passengers from 15 million.

Gaca is applying what it describes as “just-in-time development” at the site, launching each phase of construction as existing facilities near saturation.

“We will need the second phase at the airport between 2017 and 2025, a to our traffic forecasting,” says a consultant on the scheme.

The second terminal will increase capacity to 50 million passengers a year and, when that is almost full, construction on the third terminal will begin, expanding the airport to accommodate 80 million passengers. Jebel Ali will cater for 120 million passengers a year on completion.

“We are taking the opposite approach to Dubai, which has rushed to build Jebel Ali while there are still doubts about whether it can fill it,” says the consultant. “Forecasting for these sort of projects you tend either to be lucky or wrong. We have factored in societal changes and population growth but the masterplan includes a provision to scale back the size of the project if the numbers of passengers do not appear.”

Meanwhile two bids have been submitted to Gaca to complete the design for Jeddah’s first terminal. The first is led by UK engineering group Arup, with US architecture firm HOK, and the local firm Saudi Consulting Services (Saudconsult). The second is led by the French airport operator, Aeroports de Paris, along with two other French firms, Arep and Iosis Group, and local firm Zuhair Fayez.