Steel palm trees and 17 million passengers: Plans unveiled for Madinah Airport expansion

Hajj and Umrah pilgrims flying to Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport can expect upgraded facilities

Madinah Airport will be able to handle 17 million passengers by 2028. Photo: Scott Brownrigg
Powered by automated translation

Pilgrims flying to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah in the future will have an improved airport experience.

That's because Madinah Airport – the closest to the Prophet's Mosque – has revealed its expansion plans that will allow it to handle 17 million passengers a year by 2028.

The designs for the airport's upgrade have been approved and work is to commence at Prince Mohammed bin Abulaziz International Airport this year.

The existing Terminal 1 building is to be converted into an international airport, with a newly renovated terminal dedicated to Hajj and Umrah charter flights. Domestic operations are being relocated to a new 39,000 square metre terminal, connected to Terminal 1 via a newly constructed pier.

This terminal will be built over three levels, and its design will use the same modular steel palm-tree-shaped columns in the existing airport, a symbol of peace and prosperity.

“The revitalised terminal and new domestic terminal will provide passengers with an illuminating experience, providing comfort and tranquillity,” said Maurice Rosario, director and head of aviation at Scott Brownrigg, the design company responsible for the airport's new look.

“Our design aspires to reflect the unique essence of the Hijaz region and the revered holy city of Al Madinah Al Munawwarah.

Both the new and renovated terminals are being designed to reflect the architectural identity of the original airport, which was inspired by its role as a gateway for millions of pilgrims to Madinah.

As the first commercial airport terminal in the Middle East to become LEED Gold certified, the airport's new designs will uphold the same sustainable standards, and accommodate flexibility for future expansion.

270,000 bags and 240,000 Zamzam water bottles

The expansion plans align with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 which aims to attract more international visitors to the kingdom. Original targets were already surpassed, thanks mostly to domestic travellers.

A revised target of 150 million visits from both international and domestic tourists by 2030 reflects the kingdom's ambitious outlook, Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority, previously told The National.

As one of the world’s largest annual mass gatherings, Hajj pilgrims from around the world will fly to the kingdom between now and July 22.

Saudia Group, the owners behind the kingdom's national airline, have allocated 1.2 million seats on its fleet of more than 150 aircraft to Hajj visitors. Over the coming weeks, pilgrims will arrive at five domestic airports in Saudi Arabia including Madinat, Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and Yanbu.

Another 120,000 pilgrims are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia through the Makkah Route initiative. This project has been running for six consecutive years at 11 airports in seven countries – Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Ivory Coast. It allows travellers easier entry into the kingdom with electronically issued visas, biometric data collection and priority baggage collection and sorting.

Saudia Airlines expects to handle about 270,000 bags and about 240,000 Zamzam bottles of holy water, which pilgrims often collect to take home to loved ones.

On board Saudia flights, pilgrims can make use of in-flight entertainment screens displaying announcements of Miqat (a boundary for pilgrims to start intent for the performance of Ḥajj), and prayer times, plus Islamic content about the rituals surrounding the pilgrimage as well as regulations in Saudi Arabia.

Updated: June 04, 2024, 11:51 AM