A new aviation hub is set to open in Saudi Arabia’s northern region by the second quarter of 2016.

The new hub comprises mainly the Hail airport, which, similar to the other domestic airports in the neighbouring provinces, is currently served by two flights a week originating from the key cities in Saudi Arabia.

Under the ongoing initiative to convert Hail into a regional hub, Hail will serve as the main port of connection for passengers flying between the kingdom’s key airports such as Mecca and Riyadh to the other six airports located in the northern provinces.

Newly-licensed Nesma Airlines will be based in the Hail aviation hub and will be operating daily flights between the domestic airports.

The new hub is expected to provide greater accessibility to the kingdom’s less developed region. “These routes were being previously served only by two flights a week… and these flights were always full, which makes it impossible to accommodate growing demand,” Basem Abdullah Alsallom, general manager for marketing at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) tells MEED.

With the new hub “we will be pushing daily passenger traffic to Hail, which will then distribute them to the seven domestic airports,” he says.

The domestic airports are located in the provinces of Turaif, Arar, Rafha, Al-Jouf, Tabuk and Qaisumah.

It is expected that Nesma Airlines’ flights from Hail to the neighbouring provinces will take an average of 30 minutes.

Alsallom also tells MEED that all airport projects that have been awarded by Gaca will not be affected by the budget cuts to be implemented by the Saudi government this year.

He adds that no major changes are expected in terms of future project awards. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, an estimated $4bn-worth of contracts, mostly for the expansion of existing domestic airports, is scheduled for award in the kingdom between 2016 and 2020.

Airport Country region Net project value ($m) Status Expected year of award
Taif International Mecca 1,000 Main contract prequalification 2016
Prince Abdulmohsin Bin Abdulaziz airport expansion Medina 350 Design 2016
Qaisumah Domestic airport expansion Eastern Province 300 Design 2016
Rafha Domestic airport expansion Northern Borders Province 300 Design 2016
Turaif Domestic airport expansion Northern Borders Province 300 Design 2016
Al-Jouf Domestic airport expansion Al-Jouf 223 Main contract bid 2016
Al-Ahsa Domestic airport expansion Eastern Province 300 Design 2017
Al-Wajh Domestic airport expansion Tabuk 300 Design 2017
Sharurah Domestic airport expansion Najran 300 Design 2017
Wadi al-Dawasir Domestic airport expansion Riyadh 300 Design 2017
Qurayyat Domestic airport expansion Al-Jouf 140 Design 2016
Al-Baha Domestic airport expansion Al-Baha  97 Main contract bid 2016
Source: MEED Projects