Interview: Kjeld Binger

What developments are planned for Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA)?

KJELD BINGER: New installations at QAIA have boosted the airport’s annual capacity to 12m passengers. The next project will be an upgrade of the baggage handling system. The preliminary phase of this upgrade is already under way, and its implementation will start in 2018. This project represents a JD45m ($63.9m) investment and is expected to be completed by 2020.

In addition, plans to build a 10-MW solar plant at the airport are in the final phase of negotiations, with construction scheduled to start in 2018. This facility will be managed by an operator from whom the airport will acquire electricity. Lastly, plans for real estate projects in the vicinity of the airport are generating great interest among developers and will hopefully contribute to the dynamism and attractiveness of the area.

These developments correspond with AIG’s strategy: to identify niche markets that can be served from the airport. As of today, 15% of travellers are passengers in transit, which means that QAIA’s efforts to continue its development as a niche hub have already been successful, primarily based on Royal Jordanian’s contribution.

How much emphasis is being placed on increasing the provision of low-cost carriers (LCCs)?

BINGER: Increasing the number of LCCs plays a significant role in AIG’s strategy. Jordan already has open sky agreements with several countries, and we are aiming to develop bilateral agreements with key markets. Though the LCC market in the Middle East may not be growing as fast as in other regions, we are looking forward to attracting LCCs to open new routes from QAIA by providing competitive offers and incentives.

In this regard, Asia carries the most imminent potential for growth in terms of new airlines and destinations. China, India and Indonesia already stand as huge markets that are growing fast and looking for new openings. Given its increased capacity and commitment to international standards, QAIA can become an attractive hub for these countries’ airlines in the MENA region.

How can public-private partnerships (PPPs) further support the transport sector in Jordan?

BINGER: There is space for improvement in infrastructure, which could benefit the national economy across multiple sectors and governorates. In this regard, building a railway network under a PPP agreement would have a considerable impact on the transport sector. Indeed, by establishing a direct rail link between Aqaba, Amman, QAIA and the dry port at Ma’an, this network would boost growth in various sectors, including industry, logistics and agriculture. It is also important to note that the railway would not compete with the airport, but would instead contribute to increased interconnectivity between different modes of transport.

To what extent can QAIA serve as a catalyst for growth across the broader economy?

BINGER: The first sector the airport can support is tourism. QAIA’s high-quality infrastructure helps to promote Jordan, as it gives visitors their first and last impressions of the country. Of course, an airport cannot create a destination by itself, but AIG is working with partners in tourism to develop a unified offering, create synergy and contribute to economic growth.

In terms of air cargo, activity has risen slightly in recent years but is now stagnating. As a result, we are developing new initiatives to boost specific sectors. In the case of agricultural exports, there are discussions with ministries, cargo companies, free zone developers and cargo handlers to create new terminal storage options, such as cooling facilities, dedicated to addressing demand from this segment.

Overall, the airport aims to reach its critical mass to get to the next level. Passenger levels of 10m per year will create the momentum to attract more people and activity to the airport, and consequently more investors.