Failure to solve the GCC’s airspace congestion issues will negatively impact the Dubai economy, UK air traffic management service company NATS told reporters at a briefing today.
The company’s warnings come amid growing daily traffic volumes in the UAE, set to hit 4600 by 2030 compared to 2200 today, while aviation’s contribution to Dubai’s GDP is set to rise from 19 per cent to 32 per cent by 2020 and equate for 22 per cent of employment.
“If you look at somewhere like Dubai that is really focused on diversification, aviation is a double whammy, one it is a diversified industry but two it actually is an economic engine. If that piece doesn’t work all your other diversified industries won’t work,” said John Swift, director, NATS Middle East.
He added there would be “an impact on the economy” if Dubai’s aviation plans, which include expanding Al Maktoum International airport to six runways and an annual capacity of up to 160 million passengers, are “constrained or restrained” in any way.
Airspace in the GCC is in increasingly short supply, while the number of aircraft serving in Middle Eastern commercial fleets is growing.
GCC states are expected to serve over 400 million passengers annually by 2020, with total aircraft movement in Gulf airspace to hit over 2.3 million.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing estimates 2,950 of its new craft will enter service in the Middle East by 2032/33, 770 as replacements, and Airbus is expecting additions of 1,999 with 291 as replacements.
A lack of coordination on air traffic control among GCC states has been blamed for the region’s increasing congestion problems with NATS executives suggesting a “coalition of the willing” will be needed with a greater share of information required across the board.
Swift said there was “definitely” room for an aviation traffic coordination concept like Europe’s Eurocontrol to support planning, and focus on where air traffic bottlenecks are emerging. Although he stressed that exactly replicating the European body was unnecessary given its changing role in recent years.
Swift was speaking at the launch of NATS’ first Middle East office, located in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers.
The company said the GCC was a “modest contributor” to its overall revenues, but it expected to at least triple its business going forward, with a particular focus on the UAE, Oman and Qatar.