A large-scale programme to upgrade and expand air transport infrastructure in Algeria, which currently consists of 52 airports with paved runways, is under way. As part of plans to transform the country into a regional air transport hub, new terminals at airports in some of Algeria’s largest cities are under construction, with connectivity at the main international airport in Algiers also being improved through the development of public transport connections. Plans are also in place to upgrade control tower infrastructure at several airports and build a new air traffic control facility.
East & West
March 2016 saw the inauguration of a new terminal for both domestic and international flights at Rabah Bitat Airport in Annaba in the east of the country. The facility was built over a period of four months at a cost exceeding AD3.76bn (€31.1m), with an initial capacity of 700,000 passengers per year. A new airport terminal is also being built at Ahmed Ben Bella Airport in the western city of Oran, which suffers from capacity issues, at a cost of €130m. The facility, which will more than triple capacity from 800,000 passengers a year to 2.5m, is due to be completed towards the end of 2017, with its inauguration having been pushed back several times from an initial planned date of late 2015.
Developing A Regional Hub
Meanwhile, a new terminal is being built at Algiers’ Houari Boumedienne Airport, which currently suffers from overcrowding stemming from a shortage of check-in and gate capacity at busy times, in particular in the middle of the day. The 73-ha terminal, which will increase the airport’s capacity to around 10m passengers per year and is being built at a cost of AD90.3bn (€747m), will handle international flights only, with the current international terminal to start handling both domestic and international flights. In addition, an existing terminal dedicated to Hajj pilgrimage flights will be closed and its activities moved to the current domestic terminal. Construction work on the new facility began in the late 2014 and is scheduled to be completed towards the end of 2018.
In the meantime, the airport has made efforts to address capacity issues through improving the management of the aircraft movements schedule by, for example, refusing additional movements at peak times. Observers say that the facility could still increase the number of daily flights if take-off and landing slots are well managed. The authorities have longer-term plans for another terminal to be built at the airport by 2032.
In addition to remedying capacity issues, there are hopes that the expanded airport will become a hub for travel between Europe and Africa. While other countries, such as neighbouring Morocco, have similar and more advanced ambitions, the authorities believe there is sufficient space in the market for more than one hub.
Plans are also in place to improve the airport’s connectivity, with work on a 10-km extension of the city’s metro network to the airport under way and due to be completed in late 2019, although in October 2016 Omar Hadbi, director-general of Entreprise du Métro d’Alger, said that the project had not received the full amount of funding from the government necessary to complete the project, raising the possibility of future financing difficulties. Local firm Cosider, which is building the extension, said that it had modified the construction schedule to build the line in tranches rather than all at once in response to the shortfall. In March 2016 the government also signed a contract for the construction of a four-star hotel near the airport. The facility, which will have 250 rooms, is also due to be completed in 2018.
Various efforts to improve air traffic control and communications infrastructure are also under way. These include plans to construct new control towers at five airports, namely Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Tamanrasset and Ghardaïa. The authorities are also working on a project for a new air traffic control centre to be located near Tamanrasset, which will cover southern Algeria. Currently only one centre, in Algiers, covers the entirety of the country.