More than 63,000 passengers used the Kuwait International Airport (KIA) during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, according to figures from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which also revealed that 20 additional flights were scheduled to carry people returning to Kuwait during the annual break.
The state's main airport saw the expected surge in activity during this period, welcoming travelers returning from destinations where they spent the short Eid holiday, as well as those returning home from their annual vacations ahead of the new school term, which starts later this month. According to DCGA Director General Essam Al-Zamel, around 63,164 passengers were expected to arrive to Kuwait during the period between August 29 and September 3, including 59,369 on 542 standard scheduled flights and 3,795 others on 20 additional flights.
Al-Zamel suggested that the airport would remain extremely busy until at least the middle of this month, requiring double the usual number of staff to cope with the extra passenger numbers.
Meanwhile, airport security director Major General Ibrahim Al-Rashid emphasized that the KIA Security Department is entirely capable of handling all security threats. He explained that the department maintains close contact with national and international security bodies and has procedures in place when it receives notification or warning of any suspicious activities, adding that its officers are careful to ensure that their operations avoid disrupting traffic at the airport.
In an interview with local daily Al-Rai, Maj Gen Al-Rashid indicated that airport security personnel undergo regular trainings to update their capabilities to handle all types of emergencies, which can change in their type and intensity. The senior security official also revealed that the airport's CTX explosive detection devices will soon be fully operational. Maj Gen Al-Rashid also noted that authorities have arrested 320 previously deported people who tried using fake passports to reenter Kuwait, explaining that they were caught through the use of the fingerprinting security system installed three months ago.
Meanwhile, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Middle East carriers posted a 9.7 percent increase in demand for July, outstripping the 8.9 percent capacity increase. Load factors for the month stood at 81.4 percent.
In a press release IATA announced traffic results for July which showed that passenger travel was up 5.9 percent over July 2010. Freight markets were stagnant, however, with a 0.4 percent demand decline over previous year levels. "Passenger travel bucked the gloomy economic outlook with a 5.9 percent increase in July. This increase was likely based on the much more optimistic economic outlook that marked the beginning of the year.
With business and consumer confidence now tanking, sluggishness in international trade, and high fuel prices, the expectation is for a weaker end to the year. We are already seeing this in the shrinking air freight markets, which were 0.4 percent down on the previous year," Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO was quoted in the press release as saying.
International passenger markets, which grew by 7.3 percent compared with July 2010, remain stronger on average than domestic markets which showed weaker growth of 3.5 percent year over year. Compared to pre-recession levels of early 2008, international passenger traffic has expanded by 12 percent. Had the industry continued to grow at the pre-recession pace of 8 percent, international markets would have been about 14 percent higher than today's levels and a quarter higher than pre-recession level. This confirms that the global financial crisis has cost airlines about two full years of growth, the IATA press release concluded.