WITH airport projects worth a total of $17 billion underway, the Middle East is one of the few regions of the world with plans in place to meet the demands of continued growth in air travel, according to industry experts.
In what the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has described as a “looming infrastructure crisis,” many countries and regions are failing to prepare adequately to meet demand – with major potential impact on the environment caused by inefficient use of airspace and flight delays.
Global airline traffic is expected to grow to 75 billion passengers by 2011 – a 29 per cent increase on those flying last year, according to IATA.
“The numbers clearly show the world wants to fly,” said David Weaver, Group CEO of ESR Technology, one of the world’s leading engineering, safety and risk management companies with high profile clients in the aviation industry. ESR Technology showcased its activities in the aviation sector at the Dubai Air Show last month.
“For many parts of the world, however, there seems no end in sight to the problem of flight delays,” Weaver added. “IATA has worked out that air traffic management bottlenecks will add 12 per cent to airline fuel bills and cost the environment 73 million tones of unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions each year. These are issues that the aviation industry must confront.”
The Middle East is forecast to show the strongest international passenger demand growth with an annual average growth rate of 6.8 per cent driven by GDP expansion and significant new routes and capacity. Within the region, the UAE at 8.4 per cent will show the strongest growth, according to the IATA forecast.
Total Middle East international passenger numbers are forecast to be around 105 million in 2011, an increase of 30 million over 2006 levels. The total global fleet of aircraft is expected to nearly double by 2026, growing from 18,200 to more than 36,400.
Weaver said IATA’s director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani has described the lack of preparation to safely accommodate sustained growth in the aviation sector as “a looming infrastructure crisis.”
“Parts of the world are effectively managing infrastructure development to anticipate and meet demand - particularly the Middle East and China. But enormous expansion in other regions could be impacted by insufficient airport and air traffic management capacity,” said Weaver.
ESR Technology says it is well placed to play an essential management role in the controlled expansion of the aviation infrastructure in the Middle East. “We are entirely independent from the construction industry, airports and governments,” Weaver said.
“There is little doubt that the Arabian Gulf countries in particular are rising to the challenge with the sheer scale of airport development in the region which is impressive by any standard.”
According to data from research company Proleads, there are currently 59 active airport projects in GCC countries worth a combined total of well over $17 billion. Far and away the biggest are the colossal Dubai World Central currently under construction and Qatar’s New Doha International Airport.
Dubai World Central aims to be the world’s largest passenger and cargo hub. With an annual cargo capacity of 12 million tonnes, it will be more than three times that of Memphis, US, today’s largest cargo hub. A passenger capacity of more than 120 million will be almost 50 per cent more than Atlanta, US, currently the world’s busiest passenger airport.
On completion of the project, Qatar’s giant airport will be able to handle 50 million passengers, 320,000 planes, and two million tonnes of cargo a year.
“A major reason why good aviation management during development processes is imperative anywhere in the world, is the positive impact it has on aviation safety,” said Weaver.