Another Middle Eastern feat of engineering will be opening at the end of this month in the island nation of Bahrain. A new USD $1.1B airport terminal will help increase the capacity of Bahrain's Airport tenfold and bring in more travelers to the oil-rich emirate.
The older BAH terminal is notoriously undersized. This was quite an issue when you consider that not only was this a hub for Gulf Air, Bahrain's flag carrier, but also had several international carriers being served including Jazeera, Turkish, and British Airways among others. With just seven gates and a handful of remote stands, it was severely lagging behind most Middle Eastern airports. Even with the new terminal being on the smaller side compared to other airports, it is still four times larger than the old one.
Bahrain's Economic Plan
The new airport terminal is one of many steps in Bahrain's fairly ambitious economic goal to be completed by 2030. The plan is to help bring more business and tourism to the small island nation by increasing the sustainability of facilities and rapid modernization which will hopefully stimulate more economic growth. Bahrain is also building several artificial islands in a similar way Dubai built the Palm Jumeirah and the World Islands, and will build several hotels, houses, apartments, office buildings, resorts, and almost anything else imaginable for a growing island city. Bahrain is also the only country in which you can scuba dive on a coral reef made out of a sunken Boeing 747.
The New BAH
The new terminal measures around 210,000 square meters (2,260,421.2 square feet) and will help push BAH's operating capacity of up to 14 million passengers per year. The new facilities include a total of 20 new e-gates, 104 check-in counters, 8 baggage claim belts, 36 passport control offices, a 4,780 square meter departures hall, 6,600 square meter arrivals hall, and 10,000 square meters of retail and duty-free space. The duty-free area is three times larger than the older one. A bonus feature of the new airport is there is also a hotel and medical clinic with its own team of healthcare provides. The terminal will open on January 28, 2021, after being delayed for at least a year due to construction issues as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic.
What This Means for Airlines
We have seen a trend of Middle Eastern Airports getting larger and more modern terminals since 2010 to increase tourism and business, as well as rapid airline expansion. Whether it's in Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, or Muscat, the results are pretty similar. With the expansion of BAH, not only does Gulf Air, Bahrain's flag carrier airline, have more options for more as well as longer flights, but so do other airlines who were previously unable to fly due to gate restrictions. Gulf Air obviously wins the most here, as now they can bring more destinations under the belt and build up their airline's foreign appearance. While they cannot necessarily compete head-on with the Middle East's big three - Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad - they at least bring something to the table.
Gulf Air is modernizing its fleet with brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners which come with premium economy and Apex Suites in Business Class. Apex Suites are no Q-Suite-caliber business class, but they are better than many of the airlines' direct competitors. They are found on other airlines like Korean Air and Oman Air and specialize in every seat having direct aisle access despite being in a 2-2-2 format. With the help of these new Dreamliners, Gulf Air planned to launch flights to New York in 2018/2019 and drew up plans for Toronto and Houston service, but ultimately did not go through with any of those services, mainly because of their small airport hub. However, Gulf Air now has multiple possibilities for its future. All in all, don't be surprised if airlines start eyeing Bahrain service, or Gulf Air starts making strides in the international market.
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