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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Heathrow Airport Attracts New Saudi Investment

After Newcastle Football Club, The Independent newspaper, Rocco Forte Hotels, Selfridges, Aston Martin cars, and now Heathrow Airport ↗ are among the British assets attracting Saudi Arabian investment, according to The Telegraph Newspaper.

Further plans for investments worth tens of billions of pounds are underway. A consortium led by Riyadh’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is purchasing a 25% stake in Heathrow Airport from Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial for £2.4 billion, in partnership with private investment firm Ardian.

The consortium may increase its stake to gain majority control, with the deal anticipated to close before summer. The PIF intends to become a “long-term partner” for the airport.

New Gulf Thinking for Heathrow Airport

Airlines and politicians are advocating for the £14 billion development, aiming to boost passenger capacity to 142 million annually, nearly double the 2019 record of 81 million. Initially approved in 2003, support was withdrawn by David Cameron’s coalition government in 2015 due to objections from green campaigners. Theresa May’s administration reversed this decision in 2018.

Two years later, the Court of Appeal deemed a third runway inconsistent with Britain’s climate goals. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision later that year. Former Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye stated before leaving his post last year that he was exploring “how to restart the planning process.”

“The airport deserves a third runway,” says aviation analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research. “With the legal situation resolved, I hope it will finally move forward.”

Fresh Saudi investments won’t likely fund new runway construction. The Sunday Times reported the shelving of the third runway, with Heathrow executives believing that environmental concerns would hinder planning permission. Additionally, the political unacceptability of road traffic disruption, notably on the M25 during construction, is a significant factor.

Heathrow’s new CEO, Thomas Woldbye ↗, denies scrapping the third runway project but aims to handle up to 20 million more passengers yearly by 2036 without building new runways. With connections to just 214 destinations, Heathrow lags behind Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Amsterdam’s Schiphol. Furthermore, it no longer holds the title of the world’s busiest international hub, having been surpassed by Dubai.

To attract more passengers, Heathrow could improve with new terminals and gates strategically positioned for efficient aircraft handling. Terminal 1, closed for a decade, could be reconstructed to accommodate T3, the airport’s oldest terminal. This revamped central hub could cater to airlines like Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, and Qantas, while British Airways would continue operating from Terminal 5.

Surinder Arora, founder and chairman of the Arora Group ↗, aims to introduce terminal competition at Heathrow by constructing a new terminal between T5 and the M25 motorway, potentially becoming a new T4.

Some analysts suggest Heathrow should implement “mixed mode,” allowing the same runway to be used for both take-offs and landings simultaneously, a practice common at single-runway airports like Gatwick.

Airport ↗ reforms often necessitate parliamentary legislation, and financial analysts note that increasing costs dampen enthusiasm for new construction projects. Building new Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 would require approximately £10 billion. Thus, technology emerges as the primary avenue for enhancing efficiency, with investors from the Gulf potentially holding an advantage in this regard.

The new airports in the Gulf are so new which have led the way in cutting-edge tech.

Departing passengers at the airport can use automated machines and bag-drop terminals for its 29 airlines. Paper luggage tags are being replaced with computer chips or QR codes, streamlining check-in and passport control. Facial recognition eliminates the need to show a passport, making boarding faster at the gates.

These innovations will feature in the new terminals at Riyadh’s King Khalid airport ↗, developed by Mohammed bin Salman into a five-runway hub for Saudia and Riyadh Air. Saudi airport operators are also experimenting with X-ray security arches, enabling passengers to walk through with their luggage, eliminating the need for conveyor belts and scanners.

One likely change at Heathrow is simple: utilizing remote stands to park jets and busing passengers to the steps. Despite potential passenger dislike, the move could increase flights and reduce delays, which travelers may ultimately accept, especially for destinations like Saudi Arabia. The Saudi investment may facilitate new opportunities for Riyadh Air to secure valuable slots.

Related Topics :

Majestic Saudi Airports Poised to Be World Cup 2034 Gateway ↗

A Saudi airport gets ACI health accreditation for safe travel ↗

Medina Gov. Unveils 2nd Phase of Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport Expansion ↗

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Michael Maren
Michael Maren
Former marine biologist who likes to spend as much time in the tropics as possible, due to a horrible time I once had in Alaska. Brrrr.

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