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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Exclusive: Jordan's airport operator seeks new airlines in Latin America and Asia 

Queen Alia International Airport to handle 8.2 million passengers in 2018

Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. The hub is expected to handle 8.2 million passengers this year, up from 7.9 million last year.  Foster + Partners
Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. The hub is expected to handle 8.2 million passengers this year, up from 7.9 million last year.  Foster + Partners

Jordan airports operator, majority-owned by Groupe ADP of France, wants to woo airlines from the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa to serve Amman amid efforts to boost tourism inflow to the country.

Airports International Group, the developer and operator of Queen Alia International Airport, seeks to tap into friends and family bookings by people from the Middle East living in those markets, Deema Anani, chief commercial and customer officer of the airport, told The National. The hub is estimated to handle 8.2 million passengers in 2018 up by 4 per cent year-on-year from 2017.

"Targeting Middle Eastern diaspora going home via Jordan could be a feasible option," Ms Anani said on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Dubai.

Queen Alia International plans to have 46 airlines operating at the hub by the end of 2018 and to add four more airline customers in 2019. European low-cost companies Ryanair and Nordwind began serving Amman this year as the country tries to expand its tourism sector. Jordan received 3.84 million foreign visitors last year, who spent at least one night in the country, up from 3.6 million in 2016.

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The Amman hub, which has 76 non-stop destinations, plans to add four new routes next year to cities in Western Europe and North Africa, Ms Anani said.

The airport is targeting a 5 per cent increase in passenger traffic in 2019 by working with Royal Jordanian and attracting more airlines to add new destinations, she said.

Paris-based airports operator Groupe ADP, which owns 51 per cent of AIG, manages 26 airports globally. Queen Alia International, which has a capacity of 12 million will expand to 16 million by 2032.

Attracting low-cost airlines to Jordan will benefit its tourism sector, which will stimulate economic growth, earn foreign currency and ease the pressure on the country's current account deficit estimated at 10 per cent of the GDP in 2018, according to a November 2 note by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The sector would help create jobs at a time when unemployment levels have reached 18.7 per cent.

"The introduction of low-cost carrier flights to Jordan will give a major boost not only to the tourism industry, but also allied sectors such as transportation, restaurants and hotels," according to the EIU. "Jordan's tourism sector has suffered badly from the effects of regional instability, although tourist arrivals picked up strongly in the first nine months of 2018."

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait in June pledged $2.5 billion in an aid package to prop up Jordan's economy. It will include a deposit to the central bank, guarantees to the World Bank on Jordan and annual support to the Jordanian government's budget for five years.