The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) has confirmed Ireland’s daa International as the operator of Red Sea International Airport (RSI).

The airport is currently under construction in Hanak, Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia, and is on track to become the region’s first carbon-neutral airport, TRSDC said.  

The agreement covers operations and general maintenance services worth close to SAR1bn ($266m). 

daa International will serve as the airport operator for RSI in 2023, overseeing design consultancy, management, and operations in accordance with the provisions of General Authority of Civil Aviation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (GACA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). TRSDC added that services provided by daa “will also enable the seamless integration of green technology and waste and resource management, aligned with the highest standards of sustainability, while prioritising safety and security”.  

TRSDC and daa International are working towards ACI Europe’s Airport Carbon Accreditation Program with the intention of securing the highest current standard, Level 4+, which would make RSI the first new airport to secure this standard before operations commence. Discussions are also in progress with regards to creating a new ‘Level 5’ standard, in turn making RSI the first airport in the world to acquire this new industry leading rating. 

Designed by international architecture firm Foster + Partners, RSI is on track to welcome its first passengers in 2023, with capabilities to serve an estimated one million domestic and international tourists per year by 2030 – at a peak of 900 travellers per hour. 

The airport is registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and recently completed test landings and take-offs on the 3.7km main runway. The team also celebrated eight million safe man-hours with 2,400 workers. 

RSI will be the first airport in the region with a dedicated runway for seaplanes and water aerodromes, regulated by a new set of GACA safety guidelines. The destination will also service hydrogen-powered seaplane variants, supplied by hydrogen-electric aviation firm ZeroAvia, as well as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft technology. 

TRSDC welcomed a delegation of Irish dignitaries to its offices in Riyadh to celebrate the signing of the agreement. Minister of State at the Department of Transport in Ireland, Hildegarde Naughton, and Ireland’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, Gerry Cunningham, were both present, alongside Enterprise Ireland, the country’s trade organisation. The event was attended by His Excellency the President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdul-Azeer bin Abdullah Al-Duailej. 

Image: The Red Sea Development Company