Middle East Air Traffic Takes Off

By Freddie Pierce
Air traffic throughout the Middle East continues to grow, with Dubai witnessing some of the fantastic industry expansion. In the past 25 years, aircraf...

Air traffic throughout the Middle East continues to grow, with Dubai witnessing some of the fantastic industry expansion. In the past 25 years, aircraft movements have increased from 63,000 in 1985 to 307,000 in 2010.

Dubai is home to the world’s largest single airport retail operation and also has the third busiest airport for international passenger and cargo traffic, according to arabiansupplychain.com.

But with all that growth comes problems, and Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths is concerned about how the Middle East’s airports will meet the growing demand for more passengers and more air freight.

“By 2020 aircraft movements will surpass 560,000 and passenger numbers will climb to 98.5 million,” Griffiths said in a speech to the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization’s annual meeting in Bangkok over the weekend. “Unfortunately, the airspace is currently not configured to support the growth and capacity bottlenecks are looming on the horizon. We have an outdated route structure, fragmented airspace and there is a lack of effective coordination on a regional scale.”

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Growth and solutions in Dubai’s airport industry is vital to the United Arab Emirates and to the Middle East region. Oxford Economics recently released a study claiming there were 250,000 aviation jobs and $22 billion in economic activity in Dubai alone.

To support a rapidly growing demand, airports in the region are focusing on expansion. Arab countries are planning to spend roughly $200 billion on new aircraft in the next 15 years, and $100 billion has been committed to airport expansion.

“Previously most of aviation’s congestion problems have existed on the ground, now the biggest strategic threat to the growth of aviation is in the air,” Griffiths said. “Airspace management is being seen by other parts of the industry as a black art, not a vital part of the supply chain, and is therefore not properly integrated.”

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