How has the air transport industry developed in Kuwait over the past few years?
The local air transport industry has grown significantly. Since we adopted an open skies policy at Kuwait International Airport, we have seen a great increase in the volume of passenger aircraft and cargo traffic. In 2014, around 10.3 million passengers used Kuwait International Airport, an increase of 10% from 2013. There are 85,000 aircraft using the airport, a 9% increase from 2013. Revenues of the Kuwaiti air transport market reached around $1.9 billion last year. Most of that revenue was from direct ticket sales through travel agencies or airline offices in Kuwait, not including tickets sold on the internet. We also saw a cargo increase of about 7% in 2014 compared to 2013, reaching 189 million kg of cargo. This has also brought challenges with it, because we now need to upgrade Kuwait International Airport so it can sustain these kinds of figures. Various expansion projects are underway for our airport facilities. One of the biggest projects involves a new passenger terminal, to be undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works. The project is still in the tendering process. Once completed, it will accommodate up to 25 million passengers in the first stage. We at the DGCA are taking on another project that involves renewing the two existing runways and constructing a third, as well as a new air control tower. There will be new taxiways as well, and even a new cargo city at the airport. These are huge and highly anticipated projects.
Where do you see room for improvement within Kuwait's civil aviation sector, and what are your priorities at the Directorate?
Over the next 10 years, our task is to deal with this anticipated growth. Air transport and traffic are forecast to grow at least 6% annually. One of our priorities is to create a company that will be charged with the management and operation of Kuwait International Airport. This is based on the premise that an independent company can act in a more flexible and commercially viable manner under the supervision of the DGCA.
What opportunities do you see for further investment from the private sector to meet these growing demands?
The private sector has ample opportunities to participate in these development projects, and also in offering services at Kuwait International Airport, such as handling and passenger services. The company we will create to manage Kuwait International Airport will be able to sign and make contracts and agreements with other airport operators and service providers, so they will have access to international expertise in terms of managing the airport.
How do cooperation agreements like the open skies policy contribute to Kuwait's economic growth and enhance cooperation in the region and internationally?
The open skies policy is a base for us to expand our bilateral air transport relationships with other countries. We have witnessed an increase in the number of airlines serving our airport, around 45 international carriers in all. Also, Kuwait International Airport is linked to an expanded network of expanded networks, and that brings more choices for passengers to select suitable air transport carriers. It also brings reduced airfares due to increased competition, which is to the advantage of the passenger. When airlines increase their operations at any airport, it contributes to the national economy, as airlines pay charges and fees to the airport, they buy catering for flights, they buy fuel, and they pay for office rental and services at the airport.
What message would you give the business community in terms of how the DGCA is supporting air traffic growth?
We are supporting that growth, and we think there will be more opportunities for business investors to come here and utilize these opportunities in the construction and navigational equipment projects we have at hand, as well as services projects that we will also be offered at Kuwait International Airport.