5 International Airports upgrades and overhauls you need to know about

2017-05-13 12:30 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - Air travel is on the up and up and airport hubs around the globe are expanding their capacity, operations and efficiency in anticipation of the ever-increasing boom. 

This is most visible at the world's largest and busiest airports, all of which are constantly upping their game to stay ahead of the pack. 

In 2016, Dubai's main airport solidified its position as the busiest for international passengers, with traveller numbers surging more than 10% in comparison to the previous year. 

They're not slowing down, however, and recent airport plans include the construction of more gates to handle double-decker A380s at the airport.  

Here's a look at 5 International Airports upgrades and overhauls you need to know about - 

The UEA's Dubai International Airport  

This Mideast gateway, also dubbed the 'new centre of the world', surpassed London Heathrow as the busiest handler of international travellers in 2015 already. And in February last year, Dubai International's newly opened extension, Concourse D, was already showing signs of a capacity increase. 

READ: Dubai cements 'World's busiest international airport' title with 7.2% growth

Concourse D’s opening effectively increased the airport's capacity to 90 million passengers a year, a result of an $1.2 billion (over R16 billion) investment. 

One year on and the capacity goal keeps increasing... Late last year, the airport said it had plans to boost capacity to an even higher 118 million passengers by 2023 by upping efficiency levels and layout. 

Since then, Dubai Airports have boosted the number of specialised facilities to handle Airbus A380 planes as their hometown carrier Emirates has grown its fleet of the double-decker aircraft.

Dubai Airports said in September 2016 it plans to add 10 more A380 gates with airbridges at Dubai International Airport's Concourse C. That will leave it with a world record 47 gates designed for the mammoth aircraft. Plans are underway to complete the project by 2018. 

READ: Booming Dubai airport plans more gates to handle double-decker A380

But if Dubai International thinks it will be dominating the 'world's busiest international airport' title unchallenged, it's wrong... 

Turkey's Istanbul New Airport

Shortly after the opening of Dubai's Concorde D, the Istanbul New Airport announced its plan to be the largest airport in the world, rivalling the massive Middle Eastern hub. 

With four phases of development underway, the Istanbul New Airport hopes for the first phase to be completed and opened by the end of 2018. At the end of this Phase 1A, Istanbul New Airport will already have the world’s largest terminal under one roof with a gross floor area of nearly 1 square kilometre, and the ability to serve 90 million passengers a year. 

When the airport is fully developed, prospectively by the end of 2028, it hopes to serve 200 million passengers annually - double that of what the world's current busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US. 

The gigantic new hub will also have six runways, flights to 350 destinations and a parking bay with the capacity of 24 thousand vehicles, the biggest in Europe.

The airport will be a destination in itself, as Turkish Airport Operations Inc and Unifree DutyFree have already signed a duty free deal for a period of 25 years, ensuring that the Istanbul New Airport will have the largest duty free zone in the world. 

Upon completion and full functionality of the Istanbul New Airport, the current Istanbul Atatürk Airport will be closed down.

READ MORE HERE: Istanbul New Airport will challenge Dubai International

The US' JFK Airport 

The US's airline power struggle with the Emirati carriers might be undecided, but the Middle Eastern airports have the clear upper hand when it comes to airports, and the US knows it. 

SEE: Emirates cuts 20% of US flights following Trump #TravelBan

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in January this year unveiled a $10 billion (more than R135 billion) plan to transform the ageing John F Kennedy International Airport into a world-class hub with easy access. He told a gathering of the Association for a Better New York that JFK lags far behind modern overseas airports, referencing specific rivals airport giants London and Dubai as the airports to beat. 

"JFK is ranked 59th out of the top 100 international airports," he said, later mentioning that state-of-the-art airports like Heathrow and Dubai had overtaken them. "Time has passed us by. We have to catch up," Cuomo said.  

At the airport, terminals are to be linked to each other, allowing travellers to move without going outside. Newer terminals would be expanded, and older ones would be rebuilt or renovated, accessible by one ring roadway.

In view of security concerns, the plan also provides for facial recognition technology.

Cuomo said he expects $7 billion to come from private funding, with another $1 billion or so still to be allocated. Up to $2 billion for road improvements not including the airport itself is likely to be financed by the state Department of Transportation, state officials said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK and other transit hubs, bridges and tunnels, is yet to implement the airport plan, and no timing for the proposed work has been determined.

The UK's London Heathrow

Amid deep divisions and decades of debate over the issue, British government in October last year approved a new third runway at London's Heathrow airport, saying the development will be the first full-length runway in the south-east since the Second World War.

"A new runway at Heathrow will bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to  £61 billion," an official statement said after a cabinet meeting on the matter. 

It said up to 77 000 additional local jobs are expected to be created over the next 14 years, while the airport has committed to creating 5 000 new apprenticeships over the same period.

Following Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union, the government said the decision would show commitment to being "open for business now and in the future and as a hub for tourism and trade".

Although a leap for economic benefit, conservationists are concerned about the environmental implications involved. 

Regardless, the governmental decision marked the beginning of a lengthy process before the project can begin in earnest, including a year until the decision can receive full parliamentary approval.

READ MORE HERE: Britain approves long-awaited Heathrow airport expansion

South Africa's OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports 

By the looks of the big guns above, it's easy to overlook tiny little SA down on the tip of the African continent. But don't be fooled, South Africa's two major airports - OR Tambo and Cape Town International - are using our location as a vantage point for international travellers to gain access into southern Africa. 

And they're serious about it too. According to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, the capital investment programmes across the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is primarily to address refurbishment and replacement requirements of existing infrastructure and also to provide new or additional capacity. 

This includes the long-anticipated realigned runway at Cape Town International Airport, along with the building of a new domestic arrivals terminus.  Construction for the latter is already due to start in March 2018 and the project is scheduled to be finished by April 2020. 

New boarding gates and an international departure lounge will be added in an R100 million building project due to begin in March 2018 and ending in June 2019, Peters says. 

At Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport, upgrades to accommodate larger aircraft hope to be completed by 2023, while the R448 million refurbishment and redevelopment of Terminal A is projected to begin in February next year, and will be completed by October 2020. 

OR Tambo is also at the forefront of the upgrading of SA's security systems, with biometric solutions and new scanning technology being piloted as we speak.

READ MORE HERE: OR Tambo, Cape Town International Airport expansions: What you need to know

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