Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has said it will prioritise the redevelopment work on the four existing terminals at the King Khalid International Airport (KKIA), with the first phase of the project expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2016.

KKIA processed more than 22 million passengers in 2015, which is nearly twice its capacity. The last upgrade of the airport was undertaken in 1983.

The first phase of the proposed redevelopment will start with Terminal 3 and Terminal 4.Terminal 4 is currently unused and Terminal 3, which caters exclusively to domestic flights, will be shut down once all flights have been transferred to the newly built Terminal 5.

The first phase of the project is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2016, with construction work estimated to take two-and-a-half years, according to Engineer Tariq Al-Abduljabbar, the president’s deputy for airports at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca).

If the project is completed as planned, international flights from Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 will be gradually transferred to the new facility by mid- to late 2019. Once the move is completed, work will start on the redevelopment of the vacated international terminals, which Gaca expects to take another two-and-a-half years.

The redeveloped terminals are envisaged to have a combined design capacity of 20-21 million passengers annually, which means KKIA’s total capacity, along with that of the newly built Terminal 5, would have reached 35 million annually by 2022.

The procurement process for the planned Terminal 6 at KKIA is not expected to start until early 2020s, or when the redevelopment plans for the four existing terminals have progressed.

“Terminal 6 has been put forward and discussed by the High Commission for the development of the city of Riyadh,” says Al-Abduljabbar. “Terminal 6 is still in the preliminary study stage with no specific dates so far in terms of the tender for consultancy or design contracts.”

The executive, however, confirmed an earlier report that the project will be built through a build-transfer-operate scheme (BTO) following the successful model utilised in the development of the Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International airport in Medina.

The Medina airport, developed on a 25-year concession agreement between Gaca and Tibah Airport Operations Company, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) created for the project, entered into full operations in June 2015.

Gaca prefers to remain fluid on the time frame for the execution of Terminal 6 but given the magnitude of the project it is likely going to require substantial time, says Al-Abduljabbar.

He added that the precise capacity of Terminal 6 will be determined once the final engineering design is completed and agreement is reached with the company that will execute the project.

It is expected that the size of Terminal 6 and the required investment for its development will take into consideration the high population growth rate in Riyadh and its mandate to play a central role in creating investment opportunities in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“Aviation is one of the most important sectors, where the participation of the private sector will play a major role,” says Al-Abduljabbar.

The aviation regulator plans to privatise all airports in the kingdom by 2020. Apart from the Medina airport, a full concession has been awarded for the operation and maintenance of the Terminal 5 at KKIA to Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). The O&M contract for Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International airport (KAIA) is also currently being tendered.