Saudi airports turn to sustainable infrastructure

Leading individuals in the industry claimed that Saudi Arabia’s aviation is working toward a sustainable model by developing infrastructure for the future to provide a smooth passenger experience while speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh.

Picking up where the global pandemic left off, which devastated the aircraft industry, the sector is strengthening the infrastructure by tackling pressing problems including the labor shortage, government health regulations, and climate change worries.

After the pandemic, the sector was forced to suffer a hiring procedure that took about 16 weeks from the time a skilled worker was found to the time they were finally assigned to their position, resulting in a shortage of staff members in the airports. However, things are rapidly shifting.

“We tried to support the airports by accelerating the training, certification and security clearance of the ground handlers and other players of the ecosystem through digitization programs that have minimized the process,” said Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Last month, the aviation authority also forwarded the ‘Harmonizing Air Travel’ policy guidelines to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization Council for approval, urging the use of a unified health document that might allay concerns that travelers from around the world had during the global pandemic.

The Saudi aviation industry is also making a determined effort to reduce dwell time, or the amount of time passengers spend in the airport before boarding their aircraft.

There won’t be any parking at the transportation hub at NEOM Airport, for instance, which is planning to build a high-speed “green” rail system that will bring air travelers to the city.

“Instead of focusing necessarily on the airport and being a destination, we want to facilitate getting you into the city as fast as we can,” said John Selden, CEO of NEOM Airport.

To speed up the mobility of incoming passengers, the airport is also taking electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or EVTOL, into consideration.

“The last two years were incredibly tough for the industry. The check-in process, which usually takes five minutes, took 20 minutes per passenger. We need to find a way to put all the passenger touchpoints together to make travel seamless,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, DG of the Airports Council International, during his speech at the event.

Additionally, airports are experimenting with the idea of running the infrastructure in a way that supports sustainability, for example, by using only battery- or 100% green technology.

“We need to have systems where passengers don’t leave gates, and we don’t burn fuel on taxiways until we are ready for take-off. We don’t need a queue at the end of the runway,” said Pagano while outlining his idea for a sustainable ecosystem powered by hydrogen that will run airports in the future.

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