Just months after the London 2012 Olympics, eyes are now turning to Sochi International Airport as it prepares for the Winter Games. Caroline Cook reports.
The 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to pull in three million passengers at Sochi International Airport, the gateway serving one of the southernmost cities in Russia. Situated next to the Black Sea and close to the Georgian border, Sochi was selected in 2007 as the host city for the events, which will take place from February 7 to 23, 2014.
In 2011, the airport handled more than two million passengers and 2012 figures are already showing growth, with almost 1.9 million travellers in the first ten months. Its operator Basel Aero – part of the Basic Element Group – also runs Krasnodar, Gelendzhik and Anapa airports, and has ploughed investment into Sochi in recent years.
Much has been done – and yet more is planned – in preparation for the Winter Olympics. The first phase of the airport’s reconstruction, a 699,654sq ft (65,000m2) international terminal, opened in September 2010 after an 8.9 billion RUB (US$288m) investment, nearly doubling capacity from 900 to 1,600 passengers per hour (pph).
Featuring 41 domestic and 15 international check-in desks, as well as two self-service, the terminal has six gates, two of which serve international flights. It has mobile registration, a five-level fire alarm system and facilities for people with reduced mobility, including elevators, ramps and disabled bathrooms.
Andrey Elinson, Deputy CEO of Basic Element Group, told Airports International: “In the new terminal, the latest technologies for passenger services, baggage handling, cargo and aircraft have been applied. Vanderlande baggage handling equipment ensures efficiency and international standards, while for passenger and baggage screening, the Rapiscan system provides four-level inspection with a capacity of up to 7,000 units per hour. In addition, the installation of new equipment with high luggage capacity is currently being considered to accommodate the baggage requirements of Olympic and Paralympic teams.”
The terminal incorporates a modern information technology infrastructure, including a large data centre. It has solar collectors for water heating, energy supply regulators and an air recirculation system. “We have a new building management system that allows us to control the airport’s complex engineering systems such as ventilation, heating, electricity and water supply,” Mr Elinson added.
Sochi’s second phase of redevelopment is currently under way. A new landing gallery with ten boarding bridges is being constructed by main contractor Transstroy.
For the third phase, a new VIP terminal with an area of 43,056sq ft (4,000m2) is due to open in October 2013 for use by members of official delegations and business jet passengers. Business aircraft will be allocated to 12 sites located next to the terminal, meaning the airport will be fully ready for the Winter Olympics by the end of the year.
Basel Aero is also undertaking changes at Krasnodar International Airport, which it feels has the potential to be a key transfer point for the event’s athletes and attendees. Mr Elinson explained that a new international terminal is planned for the gateway in 2013.
In June 2012, a joint venture was formed with Basic Element, Changi Airport International from Singapore and Sberbank from Russia to implement the best international practices in airport management.
“We have closely followed many successful projects and acquainted ourselves with the experience of London’s Heathrow during London 2012,” he said. “This has included the dedicated customer service for guests and athletes alike.
“We have worked closely with the Organising Committee for Sochi 2014 to make sure all of their expectations and requirements have been met. For instance, as well as increasing capacity and investing in the transport infrastructure, Basel Aero will also train almost 300 personnel to help them acquire sufficient competence levels in English. Over 300 people in the space of two years will receive customer service training.”
Ultimately, Basel Aero envisages Sochi International Airport as an ‘aerotropolis’, taking notes from partner Changi Airport. This concept places airports at the centre of cities as urban areas grow, providing services for airlines, businesses and passengers.
Mr Elinson continued: “Most Russian airports are located close to the cities they serve. However, it is often impossible to move the airport outside the city, which makes the aerotropolis approach ideal for this market.
“In co-operation with the Sochi government, we are implementing a set of measures that will reorganise the urban infrastructure around the airport. For instance, Sochi Airport was integrated into Sochi’s multimodal transport system. A new railway passenger terminal was opened in February 2012 and provides access to all types of public transport including rail, automotive, aviation and maritime.”