The 2nd Global Airport Leaders’ Forum (GALF), a co-located event of the 14th Airport Show, opened on Monday at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, with the inaugural session seeing the key players of the UAE and global aviation industry debating about enhancing competitiveness to broaden the socio-economic role and contribution of airports.
The two-day knowledge sharing platform for the aviation industry professionals has an impressive line-up of 30 key global government decision-makers, policy makers, thinkers and visionaries. Organized by Reed Exhibitions Middle East in cooperation with Nadd Al Shiba PR and Event Management, the Forum is being attended by delegates from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region where $100 billion investments are earmarked for airport developments.
In his welcome speech, Eng. Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman, Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said the forum has provided the aviation industry professionals the opportunity to discuss common issues, generate innovative solutions to meet head-on the present and future challenges, and most importantly drive global economic and social improvement and advancement.
He said the first phase of Dubai World Central (DWC), an economic zone that supports logistics, aviation, commercial, business, humanitarian, and residential activities around the Al Maktoum International Airport, has been completed and work was underway to accelerate the development in all major components in the coming years.
“The potentials of this ambitious project in terms of economic, social, and environmental benefits are very immense. Our world-class infrastructure, economic diversities, and long-term investment opportunities will take Dubai’s aviation industry to new heights. We are highly excited to see the full completion of this project given its current and future contributions to the global aviation industry,” he said, referring to the multi-billion dollar DWC being developed on a 140 kilometre site as the world’s first aerotropolis.
In his keynote address, Omar Bin Ghaleb, Deputy Director General of General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said the aviation industry has been able to continue its growth and expansion in spite of the enormous challenges and obstacles.
According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), airlines around the world carried about 2.91 billion passengers in 2013, which is slightly less than half the population of the globe and this figure was projected to increase by 2017 to four billion people.
Forecasts by experts and stakeholders suggest that the airlines in the Middle East plans to invest $450 billion to acquire 2525 new aircraft by 2030, which will increase the size of their fleets by 160 per cent in 2030, up from the present 1060 aircraft.
He said GCC, thanks to its strategic geographical location and gradual transition of global economic gravity towards Asia, will witness a substantial growth of 7.6 per cent, above the global average of five per cent. ICAO and Airport Council International (ACI) predicts that the Arabian Gulf states will serve 450 million passengers annually by 2020 and the total aircraft movements in the Gulf airspace will reach over 2.3 million.
The UAE will have a major share in the aircraft movements in the most congested airspace in the world. The aircraft movements in the UAE airspace will increase to 1.62 million in 2030 with aircraft movements numbering 4,400 per day compared with the present 2200 aircraft movements, he said.
He remarked: “The challenges faced by the aviation industry are huge, while the quick solutions are limited. We need to look at broadening cooperation and coordination among the stakeholders and adopt latest technologies that will contribute to air traffic management efficiency to accommodate the anticipate air traffic growth.”
Omar bin Ghalib said the GCAA took the expertise of Airbus ProSky last year to redesign and upgrade the airspace to cope with the unbridled growth in air traffic in the UAE Flight Information Region (FIR). As many as 53 recommendations made by the Airbus ProSky were being carried out across a broad spectrum of airports operations and air traffic management.
Moderating a panel discussion on Airport Development: Economic pillars to increase national competitiveness, Laila bin Hareb Al Muhairi, Assistant Director General of Strategy and International Affairs at GCAA, said the $2.2 trillion aviation industry with 3850 airports under its wings, if considered as a country, would rank 19th in the world for the GDP.
She said the UAE was aiming to go two notches up in the Global Competitiveness Report by 2020 for quality of airports, in line with the vision of the country’s leadership.
Joining the panel, Eng. Khalifa Al Zaffin underscored the need for effective and extensive interface between the government and aviation industry stakeholders, as has been case with Hong Kong and Singapore, in rising to the huge challenges and ensuring competitiveness. He suggested improvements to passenger experience and facilitation which contributes to improve the competitiveness levels of airports.
Mohammed Al Bulooki, Chief Commercial Officer, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), highlighted the need for focusing more passenger facilitation at the airports and enlarging the scope of cooperation and collaboration among the aviation industry stakeholders for national competitiveness. He said airports in the UAE are not only competing with each other but taking the global players head on. Competition is good for us to improve the facilities and service offered to the passengers.
Homaid Al Shemmari, CEO, Aerospace and Engineering Service at Mubadala, took the debate on creating a pool of talented and qualified Emirati cadre for the aviation industry further up by saying that the UAE will continue its reliance on expatriates for its multi-faceted economic development in the coming years given the shortage of UAE nationals to replace them in various technical and operational domains.
Listing out various initiatives that Mubadala had taken to consolidate its position in aerospace industry and providing career opportunities for Emiratis, he said the country’s leadership and institutions should continue to drive the efforts to inspire young Emiratis to join crucial sectors like aviation and aerospace.
Dr.Mustafa Sani Sener, CEO and Executive Board Member of TAV Group of Turkey involved in 14 airport developments in the Middle East, including UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, endorsed the effectiveness and benefits of Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) for the airports in remaining efficient and competitive.
He cited success stories of several airports. “Connectivity is productivity for the airports. If the passengers are happy, they will spend more at airports. The first 60 minutes of passengers at airport are crucial to offer memorable experience,” he said, while sharing details about a TAV survey at Istanbul airport which showed passengers spending 10.68 euros more at the duty free when having happy with the airport.
Mohammed Al Rais, Managing Director and Senior Vice President, Hill International Middle East, said the success of UAE in the aviation sector was the outcome of the advance planning, timely decision-making, effective implementation and involvement of all stakeholders in the development process. “Airports are gateways to a country. They need to provide good impact on and experience to the passengers which they can remember and talk about. The UAE is a good example of innovation,” he added.