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GCC Airports – a snapshot of the future

Regional airports leading the world in development, luxury and innovation.

DUBAI –, the leading travel search site in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, reviews the incredible state of airports in the GCC, and why they’re leading the world in air passenger traffic points and growth.

“Middle Eastern carriers are setting a benchmark for the future of air travel – setting the pace for numbers of new aircraft orders, introducing new and longer flight routes, excellence of in-flight luxury and service, and some of the most lucrative and effective sponsorship campaigns in the world,” said Mamoun Hmedan, Managing Director of Wego Middle East, North Africa and India.

“Airports in the region, especially in the GCC, are maintaining the momentum with innovative designs, services and expansion plans, which mirror the pace of their growing aviation network,” Hmedan continued.

“In Dubai alone, the busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic for the last two years, plans for further expansion to accommodate continued growing capacity stretch into the year 2020. The response to the huge growth in the Gulf is reflected by the entire travel industry, from hotels tailored to meet the needs of Middle Eastern travellers, international events and innovative mobile technology for the new online savvy user,” Hmedan said.

“It’s a thrilling time to be a part of the industry, with Middle East travellers emerging as one of the most energetic in the world, not only travelling more often but welcoming opportunities of experiencing new destinations, in true millennial traveller style,” Hmedan added.

At the enthusiasm from users and travel partners alike has been integral to our success, justifying our decision some years ago to establish a regional headquarters in Dubai. We continue to develop and introduce new tech innovations to Wego’s travel app, growing and adapting to suit travellers unique needs, along with these airports and local industry.”

Dubai International Airport (DXB)
Location: United Arab Emirates, Dubai
Yearly passengers: 71,576,868
Total aircraft movements: 405,750

Dubai International Airport pushed out London’s Heathrow Airport to claim the crown of the world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic for the last two years. With only two runways, which is unusual in itself as most this size have at least three, it’s home to flag carrier Emirates and low-cost regional carrier, flydubai.

With three terminals, two connected and one accessed by shuttle, the airport employs more than an incredible 90,000 people.

As one of the most luxurious airports in the world, services include a full gym and health facility and swimming pool at the Dubai International Hotel which is available to passengers. For meditation or just relaxation, the Zen Gardens provide a chillout break, and for long transits you can rent beds by the hour. First class lounges offer direct boarding for VIP passengers.

Modern Business Centres are available in T1 and T3, there are multiple children’s play areas and prayer rooms throughout.

Recently the addition of Concourse D expanded capacity to 90 million passengers per year. Construction is underway of additional terminal space by 2018, including a 60 percent increase in the number of aircraft stands.

The city is also focussed on the new development of DWC (Dubai World Central) to the west, with Al Maktoum International Airport expected to accommodate upwards of 160 million passengers per year.

Hamad International Airport (DOH)
Qatar, Doha
Yearly passengers: 29,858,775
Total aircraft movements: 237,108

Opened recently to replace the New Doha International Airport, the first flights departed in 2014. As a major hub for Qatar Airways who are enjoying increased international success, the airport has two runways and a single terminal.

Famed for its opulence and luxurious amenities, the airport is an innovative example of how new technology is finding its way into the travel experience. Winning Skytrax 2016 Best Airport in Middle East and Best Airport Staff in Middle East, the five concourses feature gold-plated coffee shops, luxurious private lounges with runway views, sleeping rooms, showers and conference room facilities.

The Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge occupies more than 30,000 square feet and includes a classy games room and replica F1 cars. Godiva chocolate shop, fine Italian dining along with champagne and caviar stands add to the opulent feel of the airport.

Topping off the luxe, the Hamad Airport Hotel features a pool overlooking the runways and 5 star rooms. The property features a collection of fascinating art, from Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear to Oryx sculptures by Tom Claassen.

A second terminal is planned to increase capacity ahead of the 2022 World Cup which will be hosted in Doha. There’s also plans for a new passenger amenity area featuring a museum, spa, outdoor gardens, a gym, children’s play areas and al fresco dining. The extension is expected to roughly double the capacity of the airport from 30 million to around 60 million per year.

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi
Yearly passengers: 23,865,127
Total aircraft movements: 194,875

The second largest airport in the UAE currently serves departures to all inhabited continents (one of only a handful of airports in the world to do so). Operating on a two runway system, Abu Dhabi International Airport was awarded Second Best Airport in Middle East in 2011.

Architecturally spectacular in its design, AUH delivers a consummate luxury service in the Al Dar Lounge, with canapes and non-alcoholic drinks, flat-screen TVs and complimentary WiFi. Additional luxury lounges are available in Terminal 2 (Al Ghazal) and with Etihad, in Terminal 1.

The Pearl Assist VIP terminal adjoins the main terminals offers offers dedicated drop-off points, complimentary coffee, tea and food, smokers lounges and limousine transfers to your gate.

Due to be completed by 2017, expansion plans focus on the Midfield Terminal located between the two runways. AUH will increase its capacity to 60 million passengers per year, with plans for an additional runway to meet the growing hub of Etihad Airways.

King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED)
Saudi Arabia, Jeddah
Yearly passengers: 27,111,000
Total aircraft movements: 228,549

A hub for Flynas and flag carrier Saudia, the third-largest airport in the Middle East is perhaps best known for its architecturally spectacular Hajj terminal, managing up to 80,000 passengers at one time. The airport has won awards for its natural ventilation system and is one of the largest terminals in the world.

Operating on three runways, the North Terminal is home to the airport’s two hub carriers, while the South Terminal services all others. As the gateway to the world’s Muslim pilgrimages, the airport comes complete with prayer rooms and an outdoor souk. On-site VIP lounge and small business facilities, shopping is a highlight although no alcohol is stocked.

Currently the airport is undergoing a large expansion to increase capacity from 30 million per year to around 80 million. Upgrades include a colossal on-site mosque, a 120 room luxury hotel, increased parking, monorail transport to connect the terminals, and a train station for connection to the city.

King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
Saudi Arabia, Riyadh
Yearly passengers: 19,745,392
Total aircraft movements: 168,276

Set over four terminals (with three currently in use), King Khalid International serves the sprawling capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. Opened in 1983 with two runways, all terminal spaces are connected with moving walkways. The airport is home to one of the tallest air traffic control towers in the world.

Unquestionably the most notable aspect of this airport is the enormous Riyadh Airport Mosque, with a capacity of up to 5,000 worshippers at any one time. With a large 33 metre dome, it features some of the most beautiful Islamic architecture you’re likely to see.

An adjoining VIP terminal – the Royal Terminal – serves foreign dignitaries and the Saudi royal family. Each of the major terminals has shops and restaurants, duty-free (no alcohol) and attractive fountain water features.

The airport plans further expansion, adding an extra terminal and develop the currently disused fourth terminal, to accommodate an increase of capacity from 15 million per year to 25 million.

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.