The Hosea Kutako International Airport upgrade

Situated about 45km outside of Windhoek, Namibia’s Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) handles all long-haul flights to and from the country. Originally opened in 1965, the airport is the main gateway into Namibia and creates the first impression visitors have of the country. In October 2019, work started on a large-scale upgrade of the airport, with the entire project managed by Lithon Project Consultants. 

Here’s a closer look at this exciting undertaking, which is currently in progress. 

Key facts

  • Total cost:  N$250 million 
  • Start date: October 2019
  • Duration: Initially 12 months – Covid-19 has impacted the completion date

The background

HKIA, which forms part of Namibia’s essential infrastructure and is linked to the economic growth of the country, has seen a marked increase in traffic in the past few decades. According to The Namibian, “The current airport terminal building was constructed in 1985 to handle 250 000 passengers per year. It has been reported that the airport now deals with nearly one million travellers per year.” Currently, both international arrivals and departures and domestic arrivals and departures are housed in this terminal – Terminal 2 – and the increased traffic has led to congestion and a frustrating passenger experience.

The upgrade

The HKIA upgrade project was given the go ahead in 2018, and is being jointly funded by the Namibian Airports Company and the Namibian government. Along with alleviating the congestion, the upgrade will ensure that the airport complies with all Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation ( and that it achieves an Optimum Level of Service rating in line with the International Air Transport Association standards. The upgrade includes the following:

  • A new check-in hall with an increased number of check-in counters, departure screening points and emigration counters. The hall will also feature self-service check-in kiosks. 
  • A larger departure lounge area which will double current capacity.
  • A new arrivals hall with an increased number of immigration counters, baggage reclaim belts and movement areas.
  • New restaurants, lounges, retail stores and ablution facilities.
  • Improved building ventilation and cooling.

Lithon’s project management approach

Managing a project of this scope and size, which is undertaken in a ‘live’ environment – and in the public eye – brings a unique set of challenges. According to Lithon’s Scott Richards, the project leader, the team has taken a number of steps to overcome these challenges and ensure the project’s success.

  1. Taking a structured approach

From the outset, Lithon has taken a structured project management approach. They assessed the project as a whole, broke it into phases, identified the (many) stakeholders and implemented processes and controls to ensure a smooth progression. They also assembled a high-performance team to tackle the project, and created a strong team culture early on to ensure that everyone bought into the concept and project approach.

  1. Using project management software

The team decided to use a document management system, Synergy, to help them stay on top of contractual matters and other project documentation. This was crucial given the sheer volume of documentation generated during the course of the project. As Richards points out, “To date we have issued over 1000 construction drawings and we still have more to come.” 

  1. Enlisting stakeholders

Another critical factor was to identify the various stakeholders and get them on board with the project. There are many entities with different levels of involvement – e.g. customs, immigration, retailers, suppliers – who are impacted by the upgrade, and getting their input early on in the project has been fundamental to its success.

  1. Adapting to regulations

The upgrade is taking place in a highly regulated and secured environment with numerous bodies involved, including the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority and Namibia Police Services, and there are a number of rules governing what can and can’t be done. The team had to grapple with this challenge and adapt quickly to ensure compliance with all stipulated regulations.

What about Covid-19?

The global Covid-19 crisis has caused a delay on the HKIA upgrade – this is due to the initial lockdown, subsequent restrictions on the number of people allowed on site, and delays in delivery of key equipment and materials. However, the lockdown has also presented the team with an unusual opportunity: it’s given them access to an empty airport. According to Richards, this has allowed them to fast track packages of work in key areas that were planned for later in the project – and this has helped to counteract some of the delays experienced in other areas. 

A lasting impact

A project of this size that deals with key infrastructure will always have a far-reaching impact. In the case of the HKIA upgrade, the project has utilised skills and expertise provided by Namibian companies, from the consulting teams to the construction companies – and this has meant that much of the funding for the project has remained in circulation in the local economy. But beyond this, the upgrade will improve the Day 1 experience of visitors to Namibia, and ensure that business travellers and tourists alike enjoy an easy transit as well as a modern and friendly airport experience.