Bahrain Airport Company: A Catalyst for Aviation Growth and Investment in Line with Vision 2030

Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah / CEO · Bahrain International Airport (BIA)

Bahrain International Airport (BIA), a shining jewel in the kingdom’s aviation crown, has not only soared to global recognition but also become a beacon of prosperity under the astute leadership of CEO Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah.

The Bahrain Airport has made a huge impact globally – winning World’s Best New Airport at the Skytrax 2022. It
is at the epicentre of the aviation industry in the country. How do you believe that the airport can be at the epicentre of attracting new business and investments in the aviation cluster and contribute to Bahrain’s Vision 2030 in terms of expanding and developing the country’s aviation industry?

Bahrain International Airport (BIA)’s new Passenger Terminal has put the Kingdom on the aviation map with its modern design, seamless passenger journey and diversified offerings. It consolidates Bahrain’s strives towards its strategic vision for economic diversification and sustainability goals – strengthening Bahrain’s position as a leading financial, cultural and aviation center in the region. As a key pillar of Bahrain’s economic development, the aviation sector is a catalyst for continuous economic growth and development in the Kingdom.

At Bahrain International Airport, we are proud to be enablers of Bahrain’s civil aviation sector that stretches back more than a century. As we are heading towards an increasingly connected world, it is now important more than ever to strengthen Bahrain’s air connectivity and the movement of goods as major contributors to economic development. The airport plays an essential role in achieving our ambition to expand the aviation sector and serves as a major hub for regional trade and commerce, enabling local, regional and global connectivity.

The airport’s new $1.1 billion terminal opened on 28 January 2021. At 210,000 square metres, the Passenger Terminal increases Bahrain International Airport’s (BIA) capacity to 14 million passengers and 130,000 air traffic movements per year with a handling capacity of 4,700 bags per peak hour. Currently at what percentage of the above capacities are you running at and what are the key points in your plan to hit capacity?

BIA’s new passenger terminal is Bahrain’s largest infrastructure project to date – and we are well-equipped to be operating
at maximum capacity through the collaborative efforts of our employees and partners. We are all working towards enhancing the passenger and visitor experience, while ensuring we meet and exceed the expectations of all those who enter the terminal.

In 2022 alone, almost 7 million passengers passed through BIA, demonstrating the strong recovery of the industry post- pandemic. The numbers are a testament to our dedication
in serving a vast portion of travellers, ensuring a smooth and seamless airport experience. Our performance in 2022 sets the high expectations that we have in the coming years to continue catering to the growing need of passengers and implement the latest advanced technologies to improve efficiency in the airport.

At BIA, we offer a wide range of connections to 56 destinations across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Far East, with an aim to increase flights to 70+ destinations. As of 2022, we managed air traffic of 82,500 flights throughout the year, with an increased capacity through our enhanced efficiency. We cater to 38 commercial and cargo airlines, with new routes and airlines on the horizon.

Airports have evolved over time to become prime real estate – what elements have you introduced in Bahrain Airport to commercialise and capitalise on increasing passenger numbers?

Our unique design creates for a memorable passenger experience. Passengers can pass through arrival and departure areas faster than any other airport in the region, giving them more time to enjoy the terminal’s amenities. The airport leverages the latest technologies to enhance efficiencies, improve security and meet passengers’ growing expectations for a seamless airport experience.

The automation streamlines the most time-consuming procedures, reducing waiting times and giving passengers a smooth and easy experience. The design elements of the airport contribute to the positive experience of passengers, with an aim to provide the best possible services to all.

BIA hosts art galleries, offering a glimpse into Bahraini art and culture by showcasing the Kingdom’s rich history and traditions featuring the work of talented Bahraini artists from the past and present. Visitors are also welcome to visit Souq Al Qaisariya, a retail corner that captures the spirit of Bahrain’s traditional markets, showcasing unique cultural products, traditional pottery, fashion, jewellery and more. The souq gives visitors the chance to learn more about Bahrain’s unique cultural offerings through local art, keepsake items, and quality handmade products.

What are BAC’s current top priorities in terms of consolidation and ongoing development?

At BAC, we have multiple layers of strategic priorities in terms of our ongoing development and growth within the industry.

Air connectivity – Through a coordinated approach with our partners, we are pursuing a number of opportunities to increase Bahrain’s connectivity and attract new airlines. BIA is the hub of Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, with a total number of destinations to more than 50. We also have major regional and global airlines operating from BIA including Emirates, Etihad Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines. As we have an ambitious vision for aviation excellence, Routes World 2024 is to be hosted in Bahrain – connecting major global airlines and airports in the Kingdom.

Cargo & Logistics – We aim to increase BIA’s cargo capacity in line with the Kingdom’s Logistics Services Sector Strategy, launched in 2021. Note: we need to add a statement on the cargo village, completion of phase 1 by end of the year, start of further development in 2024, our support to DHL growth, etc. (Shashi to add to this).

Sustainability – We made a strategic decision to design the new terminal along green building principles and have chosen the USGBC Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standard as our design guidelines. We were successful
in achieving a LEED Gold certified building, making it the largest green building in the Kingdom. We are committed to contribute to the Kingdom’s targets to achieve net zero by 2060 and in fact have already embarked on a number of initiatives and projects to take us to this target. We have reached Level 4 of Airports Council International’s (ACI) Airport Carbon Accreditation program.

Customer Experience – We would like to be differentiated by the level of customer experience we have designed around the new terminal. BIA has recently achieved Level 3 in Airports Service Quality (ASQ) Airport Customer Experience Accreditation Level 3 from Airports Council International (ACI) in recognition of its continued efforts to deliver and maintain an exceptional experience to all travellers and visitors to the airport. We also have Hala

Bahrain services, our premium and personalized hospitality services for departing, arriving and transit passengers that includes lounge services, transportation, luggage wrapping, meet and assist and more.

Our dedication to delivering the best results has been recognized with prestigious international awards. BIA was named the World’s Best New Airport at the Skytrax 2022 World Airport Awards, which are regarded as the quality benchmark for the world airport industry. BIA also received a 5-star Skytrax rating, becoming only the third airport in the Middle East to win this accolade.

How would you describe BIA’s unique selling points as you look to attract new airlines, increase existing routes and open new routes to and from Bahrain?

BIA has a state-of-the-art passenger terminal that delivers comfort, connection and facilitates growth opportunities for our partner airlines. The airport has managed to place Bahrain on the global map with its exceptional customer experience, facilities, sense of place and services.

As a result, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Gulf Air, is strengthening the airline’s core routes by increasing flights to destinations such as Pakistan, Dubai, Kuwait and India. Additionally,, Gulf Air is adding new routes to its network including direct flights to New York and China.

In July last year, the first stone was laid for the Cargo Express Village – this initiative will have a huge impact on logistics and transport coming through Bahrain. What do you envisage will be the impact of its opening on FDI and the growth of the aviation industry?

The Express Cargo Village development will enable the airport to enhance its cargo handling capacity in line with the national Logistics Services Sector Strategy and provide modern facilities for cargo and logistics operators to make BIA their base for growth and investment. It is a sophisticated logistics platform with separate buildings for each express air cargo operator, built to the highest international standards. The village with increase BIA’s cargo capacity and deploy advanced screening technologies to improve efficiency and meet growth targets for air freight and e-commerce.

The village will further position Bahrain as a business-friendly hub, enhancing connectivity, logistics and trade between the region and the world. As Bahrain already has competitive advantages such 100% ownership, advanced logistics infrastructure, the project will facilitate growth in the aviation and logistics sector, enhancing connectivity, trade and boosting economic development for the Kingdom and the region.

In the same vein as the above – what competitive advantages would you identify when looking at Bahrain’s aviation industry compared to other countries in the region?

Bahrain is located strategically in the Gulf, with the fastest connection times to regional markets by air, sea road. Given this strategic location, every major city in the GCC can be reached within hours. This places the Kingdom at an advantage when it comes to the aviation industry, easing the flow of connectivity to the region and on an international scale. As such, we are proud to be hosting Routes World 2024, a conference and exhibition for the aviation industry, for the first time in Bahrain in 2024.

Through the event, we will be able to host aviation experts from across the world to exchange knowledge, gain insights into key trends and open the door for growth and development within the aviation sector in Bahrain. The conference will support Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 to become a globally competitive and sustainable economic centre – driving trade, tourism, investment, labour supply and market efficiency.

What other areas within the aviation industry do you believe are ripe for further development?

The aviation industry is positioned for growth – specifically within the areas of connectivity and boosting tourism in global destinations. In Bahrain, the aviation industry contributes to local economic prosperity by placing the Kingdom on the global scale as a tourism hub and a gateway to the Middle East. In line with Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, increased connectivity will offer the Kingdom opportunities to position itself as a strategic business and tourism hub in the region, as it is located strategically between GCC countries, offering a gateway for trade, and an important connecting link between the East and the West.

Bahrain’s aviation industry is on track for strong growth within the coming years, by hosting events such as Routes World 2024 that will bring together global aviation players to the Kingdom. We are looking forward to spearheading the growth and prosperity of the aviation and tourism sector, in line the government vision to diversify and strengthen the economy.