Dubai leads the region’s flight formation with liberal aviation policies
In several ways, Dubai is a leader of the pack having pursued open-skies policies unlike several neighbouring Gulf countries.
Its airline, Emirates, is one of the biggest buyers of aircraft placing record-breaking orders, thus evolving as the clear favourite of the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturers.
On the flip side, delays in deliveries have become a key challenge for the airline. But as they say, one man’s misery is another one’s fortune — and so it is with the giants in aircraft manufacturing — Airbus and Boeing.
With an ongoing $4.1 billion expansion, Dubai International Airport is firmly positioned as the largest aviation hub in the Middle East and North Africa. Aircraft movement gained phenomenally this year too, with 192,000 flights in the first nine months of the year over 174,700 flights for the same period last year.
Undisputedly the busiest airport in the Middle East, Dubai handled about 29 million passengers last year, with 33 million passenger traffic expected this year, and a projected flow of 70 million by 2008 when the current terminal expansion is completed.
Dubai also shows the lead in building advanced civil aviation infrastructure. In fact, today, the most significant challenge is to build the right aviation infrastructure that can meet the growing demand from a global pool of travellers.
The surging growth in traffic sometimes leads to congestions and delays that can be addressed only by building the Voice and Data infrastructure as well as general multi-purpose facilities that focuses on security and operational contingency planning.
The answer also comes in the form of ‘airport cities’ – the pioneering move being the Dubai World Central, launched in 2005, and now governed by Dubai Aviation Corporation, a new regulatory body for aviation infrastructure in Dubai.
When completed, the 140 sq km Dubai World Central will host over 900,000 residents and the Dubai World Central International Airport (JXB) will handle 120 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo annually, through its six parallel runways, six concourses and two terminals. The airport city’s construction is highlighted by an array of supporting infrastructure projects including a ring road and plans to extend the Dubai Metro.
Dubai witnesses an investment of over $82 billion in various aviation infrastructure projects, with the Dubai World Central accounting for nearly 40 per cent of all investment.
Abu Dhabi too has unveiled big plans to gain a fair pie of the region’s growing aerospace industry with the Mubadala Development Company signing two key agreements at the Paris Air Show with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to look at a vast spread of collaboration in aerospace development activity including research and development.
Mubadala already has a diversified aerospace spread including the Horizon International Flight Academy, and stakes in Piaggio Aero Industries and Swiss aircraft services provider SR Technics. This global footprint carved by Gulf companies is another highlighted trend of the regional aviation industry – where looking beyond geographically has become the norm than the exception.
At the pole position of the international expansion is Dubai Aerospace Enterprises (DAE) too, which has already committed US$15 billion for the next five years to develop the regional aviation sector.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, and Chairman of Emirates Airlines, had observed: “From its base in Dubai, DAE will be uniquely positioned to drive the development of the industry forward across all markets. We have shown how much can be achieved. Emirates is one of the great airlines of the world. With the forthcoming Jebel Ali airport complex we will have the world's greatest facility.”
DAE also symbolises a rare synergy of horizontal and vertical that is also an indicator of the future of aviation in the region: It ha six founding partners - Istithmar, Emaar Properties, Dubai International Capital, Dubai International Financial Centre, Amlak and Dubai Airport Free Zone.
Indeed, the region is setting a new playing field, and the watchword will be co-opetition and collaboration.
By M P Philip