It may be tiny in comparison to Bucharest–Henri Coandă (formerly Otopeni), but Arad International Airport in western Romania is certainly not short of ambition based on its newly unveiled development plans.
Despite being located just 60 kilometres from Timişoara Airport – Romania’s third busiest gateway – Arad has long harboured ambitions to become a regional hub and is confident that its ongoing €15 million plus upgrade will enhance its chances.
The airport, which handled 100,000 passengers last year, will shortly start work on a 350-metre extension to its existing 2,000m long runway that will equip it to handle aircraft up to the size of a B737 when open in July 2011.
Next on the agenda is the construction of a new 6,000sqm passenger terminal and a 15,000sqm extension to the apron that will ensure that Arad International Airport is equipped to handle one million passengers per annum and has remote parking for up to 15 aircraft.
The airport admits that it is negotiations with two low-cost carriers (LCCs) that it hopes it can persuade to launch services to Arad next year.
The developments will be funded by a combination of Romanian government (courtesy of the National Highway Company), private investors and Arad County Council.
The National Highways Company is funding is the runway extension because a new motorway to Hungary currently under construction will cross one end of the airport site and mean that it can longer locate approach lighting and other navigational aids in the area.
Located three kilometres from the city of Arad in the historical region of Crisana, the airport is currently served by Romanian low-cost carrier Blueair and a handful of charter airlines and private jets.
DHL also operates freighter services to the gateway, whose western location in Romania makes it as close to Vienna in Austria as it is to Bucharest – both cities being around 500 kilometres away.
The combination of services means that the airport is currently linked by air to Bucharest, Verona and Valencia.
Ryanair briefly served Arad in 2008 and it remains an ambition of the airport to lure the airline back.
“We are doing all we can to convince Ryanair to reset the connection,” says Arad International Airport’s chief engineer, Grec Mircea. “Our aim is to become a regional gateway, and to do this we need more airlines and new infrastructure to enhance our existing facilities and equipment.
“We expect to attract three new airlines, two LCCs and Romanian national flag carrier, TAROM, in the next year. The new terminal and runway extension will complement our previous investments in a dedicated cargo terminal and advanced runway lighting and ILS technology.”
The airport actually experienced rapid growth in the early part of the new century when its newly upgraded airfield led to traffic reaching an all-time high of 160,000 passengers and 2,000 tonnes of cargo in 2002.
The airport could not sustain such growth, however, and in recent years has been handling around 100,000 passengers annually.
Mircea, however, is confident that the planned new facilities and a recovering global economy means that the best is still to come for the airport.
He says: “We are convinced that the new infrastructure will prove the catalyst for growth in terms of new airlines, passenger numbers, cargo and revenues. We want an airline to establish a fixed base operation in Arad and believe that the new-look Arad International Airport will provide a particularly attractive proposition to low-cost carriers."