Saudi Arabia’s 27 airports handled close to 85.3 million passengers in 2016, a 4 per cent increase on the figure reported in 2015.

This growth rate is the lowest in years – passenger traffic at the kingdom’s airports has been growing at a compounded average of 12.5 per cent annually between 2010 and 2015, according to MEED’s Aviation and Airports 2016 report.

The volume of cargo handled collectively also dropped from 1.16 million tonnes in 2015 to 928,831 tonnes in 2016. Aircraft movements, however, rose by 10 per cent to reach 708,819, according to data provided by the Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) to MEED.

The drop in passenger growth numbers could be attributed mainly to fewer visitors who travelled to Mecca last year to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The kingdom received 1.86 million hajj visitors in 2016, which is 5 per cent lower compared to 2015. The number of hajj pilgrims peaked in 2012, when it reached 3.16 million.

The number of passengers that passed through the kingdom’s busiest airport, Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International, grew 4 per cent to reach 31.15 million.

The growth was slightly higher in Riyadh’s King Khalid International, at 5 per cent.

Passenger traffic at the kingdom’s two other international airports, Medina’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International and Dammam’s King Fahd International, grew 4 per cent and 3 per cent in 2016, respectively.

Together the four international airports account for more than 80 per cent of the kingdom’s annual passenger traffic.

  Passengers Annual growth Cargo (metric tonnes) Annual growth Aircraft movement Annual growth

2016

85,288

4%

928,831

-20%

708,819

10%

2015

81,861

10%

1,163,695

14%

646,693

10%

2014

74,749

10%

1,019,805

na

589,216

na

2013

68120

na

na

na

na

na

Source: Gaca      na = not available