In our last article, we discussed how the aviation landscape of Algeria is dominated by its two state-owned carriers. However, this is only half of the preverbal aviation pie – the other half being the condition of its airport landscape. After all, without a robust airport infrastructure, be it for domestic operations or international arrivals, no other player will dare tread into the market – despite how encouraging the government might be.
As Algeria is such as developed country and rich in natural resources, there is actually more than one point of entry into the country. The coastline is dotted with foreign resorts, while the inland has vast oil wealth. This article will cover the key airports and others that you need to know in 2021.
Houari Boumediene Airport
The country has three major international airports, the most important is the capital’s Houari Boumediene Airport. Located approximately 16.9 km (10 and a half miles) from Algiers, it is secure in its ranking due to its popularity and diplomatic status. Both the two flag carriers, Air Algerie and Tassili Airlines base their fleet in this airport, and many international carriers operated services here in better times (21 as of early 2020).
The airport has two matching runways of 3,500m each and three terminals. The most recent terminal was completed in 2019 and has a capacity of 10 million passengers a year. It is considered the most modern terminal in all of Africa. In combination with the domestic terminal and the charter terminal, the airport itself can cater to up to 18 million passengers. This is a far cry from its current numbers of just over 8 million passengers before the end of covid-related airline restrictions, but the airport is well equiped for future capacity growth.
“The new airport infrastructure has been designed to manage the ever-growing number of passengers from the capital. It also meets the requirements of better organization of flights and better quality of services. The new terminal is in the heart of the Algiers International Airport’s development plan, which runs to 2032.” – Management of Algiers Airport Services and Infrastructures (SGSIA) to media.
By building the airport so big, Algeria wishes to encourage new airlines to operate services to and from the country, as well as establish regional hubs here for operations through North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. UAE’s Air Arabia, a vast low-cost carrier with hubs in Morocco, Egypt, and UAE, has shown interest in establishing a new carrier in Algeria.
“This project will require the launching of a new airline dedicated exclusively to Africa. We need a company that can manage this international infrastructure. Air Algerie, which is in great difficulty and which has shown its limits, is not capable of taking up such a challenge.” said Lamine Chouiter, a consultant for Air Arabia who is investigating local partners in the country to African Intelligence.
But ambitious goals don’t just stop there, with the airport planning to build a new airport terminal in seven years’ time (pending a return to international demand).
Ahmed Ben Bella Airport
Next on this list is Ahmed Ben Bella Airport serving the second largest city of Oran. This airport has not only attracted significant domestic attention, but also operations by European low-cost carriers for holiday resorts on the country’s northern coast. The airport has two runways and two terminals; a domestic terminal which branches off from the existing main international terminal to facilitate increased passenger numbers. So far the facility can handle up to three million passengers but could be quickly expanded to six. As the airport saw nearly two million passengers in recent years, this is a prospect that might come true sooner rather than later.
What other airports are significant?
Mohamed Boudiaf International Airport is the third busiest airport in the country, Mohamed Boudiaf International Airport serves the city of Constantine and resorts on the coastline of the country to the east of the capital. It is operated by a few European low-cost operations and twin domestic carriers.
Other airports include:
Rabah Bitat Airport or also known as “El Mellah Airport”, is located a few kilometers south of the city of Annaba. It has two terminals and a capacity of up to 700,000 passengers a year. It doesn’t cater to any international airlines, but the two local airlines do operate international routes to France and Turkey from here (as well as domestic services).
Abane Ramdane Airport, or also nicknamed Bejaia Airport, is another coastal port of access between the capital and Mohamed Boudiaf International Airport. As such, it sees traffic from France and Belgium low-cost carriers, and routes by local carriers dipping into the lucrative trade. It only saw below half a million passengers however and has much smaller growth compared to other airports in the region.
What about the future of airports in the country?
When you examine the geographical layout of the country, there is a significant weight of airports in the north of the country along the coast. However, this isn’t where the future of the country’s aviation lies. The future is found in the desert in the south.
Aguenar – Hadj Bey Akhamok Airport, known locally as Tamanrasset Airport, is one set for growth with the government considering expanding the airport to accommodate a new regional airline. Its geographical position in relation to West Africa and other regional centers, makes it perfect for a new low-cost carrier to dominate. Something that might have gone unnoticed locally, but certainly raised interest far and abroad.
“To base a hub and a company of this scale in Tamanrasset will create wealth and extraordinary economic dynamism,” suggested the Air Arabia consultant.