$88 million needed for urgent airport revamp

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An estimated $88 million is needed for a much-needed revamping of Beirut’s airport, Future Movement MP Nazih Najem said late Monday.

In an interview with Future TV, Najem, who heads parliament’s Public Works, Transportation, Energy and Water Committee, cited a study from Dar al-Handasah (Shair & Partners) that said the funds are needed to replace outdated machines and infrastructure.

An airport expansion plan estimated at $200 million was pitched to the government in January, but it is not slated to start until 2020, and the delay in the Cabinet formation process has not helped the situation in the meantime. “The Public Works Minister requested $18 million from Cabinet in February to repair air conditioners and bathrooms, [install] a new conveyor belt for luggage and … change the underground generators at the airport,” Najem said.

Najem pointed out that Dar al-Handasah had proposed implementing “fast track” departure on both wings of the airport, each costing $12 million, to raise the airport’s capacity in order to be able to accommodate the estimated 8 million passengers who will pass through it this year.

The airport’s current capacity is 6 million per annum, a number that has been surpassed every year since 2013. Last year, 8,234,782 travelers passed through the airport, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Najem’s request comes after overcrowding broke out in July, when long queues and a packed room at passport entry control held up passengers, and as the airport prepares to cope with a spike in traffic due to the hajj pilgrimage this month.