Lebanon's only international airport will build a $122 million new terminal, officials said on Monday, as economic crisis grips the nation.
Once completed, Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport will be operated by Irish airport company daa International, which will also manage Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Development Project. The airport has not undergone an expansion since 1998.
Caretaker minister of public works and transport Ali Hamie said Terminal 2 will bring in private sector investments worth $122 million and handle 3.5 million passengers annually when operations begin in 2027. It will add six docking stands as well as remote ones, he said, at a ceremony at government headquarters to announce the launch of the new terminal.
Terminal 2 will be built where the airport's old cargo building used to stand, Mr Hamie said.
The airport sustained damage in the 2020 Beirut port blast, including broken windows and collapsed ceilings, but flights continued.
Lebanon is going through a protracted economic crisis which has led its currency to lose more than 95 per cent of its value, leaving millions facing a cost-of-living crisis. The government has failed to alleviate issues that have pushed three quarters of the country’s population of 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, into poverty.
“The project opens more horizons for air aviation between Lebanon and the world” and will help to solve several problems, including overcrowding at the current terminal, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said.
Mr Hamie said the project will create 500 direct jobs and 2,000 related jobs, and that Terminal 2 would be for charter and low-cost flights.
Ireland’s Minister of State James Browne attended Monday’s ceremony in Beirut and was quoted in a statement as saying that the contract signed will deepen business relations between the two countries.
The airport currently handles 8 million passengers a year, and plans to handle 20 million in 2030, according to the website of national carrier Middle East Airlines.
AP contributed to this report