Ethiopian Airlines has announced plans to build Africa’s largest airport, with construction possibly beginning as soon as this July.
The airline’s chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam told the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation the airport may be bigger than France’s Charles de Gaulle.
It would be sited on 35 sq km of land between the town of Bishoftu and Zequala mountain. Bishoftu is about 48km southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa.
When the idea of building at Bishoftu was discussed in the past, an airport with a capacity of 80 million was mentioned.
He added that authorities in the Oromo region of Ethiopia are cooperating to secure the land.
The new facility would reduce congestion at Bole, Addis Ababa’s present international airport. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest airline by fleet size and revenue, however the country’s air infrastructure has not kept pace with its growth.
Less than a decade ago, Bole handled fewer than a million passengers a year, but that rose to 7 million in 2014. Passenger numbers are expected to continue increasing by about 18% a year.
A $225m terminal, funded by China and built by China Communications Construction Company, was completed at Bole in January last year, with 28 check-in counters and seven gates. The Chinese company is presently working on a $138m project to expand and renovate Terminal 1.
Other plans for international airports have been announced in the past. In 2012, former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn reportedly gave the green light for a project near the town of Mojo, 65km south of Bole.
Bishoftu, a settlement of about 100,000 people, was the site where the Ethiopian Air Force trained its first pilots in 1946.