A MASSIVE BD1.8 billion expansion of Bahrain International Airport aims to make it one of the best in the world.
The expansion, planned over the next 30 years, will triple the passenger capacity to 27 million a year.
Two new terminals will be opened in the next four years as part of the expansion.
Terminal Two will be commissioned by 2012 and Terminal 1A will become operational a year later, Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) chief executive officer Dr Osama Alali told the GDN.
"The two new terminals will make the BIA one of the most modern and futuristic in the world," he told the GDN.
"All modern facilities, including recreation and leisure areas, shopping centres, hotels and anything else that a modern traveller needs, will be incorporated in the new development."
Artist's designs even include a swimming pool.
The present terminal building (Terminal 1) will be demolished in 2014 and replaced with a brand new state-of-the-art structure within a few years, said Dr Alali.
"Piling work on the Terminal 2 construction will begin early in 2010 and construction will go on at a rapid pace thereafter," he said.
Architects for the expansion are expected to be appointed before the end of this year, while the main contractor is expected to be appointed early next year.
"The expansion will ultimately create 110 (aircraft) stands, including 87 with contact gates. Currently there are 25 stands, including seven air-bridges," said Dr Alali.
He said the development is part of a BD1.8bn plan for the airport, spread over the next 30 years.
"There will always be some kind of a cost escalation as we go along but the BD1.8bn figure is as we see it now," said Dr Alali.
About BD30 million had already been spent on improving and modernising several facilities at the airport.
"This includes 17 new remote (aircraft) parking bays, installation of automatic baggage screening facilities, improved ground handling and overall new passenger handling standards," he said.
BAC is wholly owned by Bahrain Mumtalakat Holdings, the investment arm of the Bahrain government.
It took over responsibilities for the operation and management of the airport, with Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) retaining a regulatory role, in January last year.
Dr Alali said the modernisation was being done in collaboration and consultation with the CAA and Bahrain Airport Services (BAS).
"By the time the whole development is completed in 2038, the airport will be able to handle 27 million passengers every year, from the present around 9 million," he said.
"The cargo handling capacity will also increase from the present 350,000 cubic meters to 1.5 million cubic meters."
He said the all ground handling facilities at the airport were being enhanced in collaboration with the company that manages Munich Airport in Germany.
"We have also entered into several other partnerships and joint ventures with international companies to improve people's skills, general cleanliness at the airport and give it an overall 'new' look," said Dr Alali.
He said the new baggage screening procedures, which will be operational well before the high season in December, will mean passengers will not have to get their baggage screened before they go for check-in.
The BIA master plan, developed by a leading aviation consultancy, is expected to significantly bolster the airport's standing as a regional hub.
"Bahrain was once the most modern airport in the world with many facilities unmatched by others in the region. We aim to bring that glory back to Bahrain," said Dr Alali.
"Our role is to improve the quality of the BIA infrastructure and services, as well as to introduce dynamic procedural systems in order for it to reach world class standards and drive profitable growth.
"We aim to position it as a global player with progressive facilities-as an attractive destination in itself."
He said BIA at present hosts 42 airlines and it is home to national airline Gulf Air and Bahrain Air.
"United Airlines is expected to begin operations in the very near future so we will have non-stop flights between Bahrain and Washington soon," said Dr Alali.
A new VIP terminal and an Airport Centre that will includes shops, entertainment facilities and car parking will be developed as part of the project.