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Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths expects 18-24 months recovery timeframe

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths expects 18-24 months recovery timeframe

Dubai International Airport recorded 17.8 million customers in Q1 2020, down 19.8 per cent year-on-year

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Thursday that the timing and the speed of air traffic recovery will eventually depend on the development of a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19.

Griffiths added that it is impossible to forecast with any reliability as to how rapidly air services will be re-established on a regularly scheduled basis and how long it would take to get back to previous traffic levels.

“We’re looking at an 18 month to two-year time frame but that is highly dependent upon the development of an effective treatment or vaccine and the establishment of bilateral arrangements between countries. So, while we can’t predict how quickly or when this will happen, I am optimistic that the innate demand when people realise it is once again safe to travel will be huge,” said Griffiths in a statement on the Dubai Airports website.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) recorded a total of 17.8 million customers in the first quarter of 2020, a year-on-year contraction of 19.8 per cent due to dampened demand and reduced flights caused by the suspension of services within the UAE as well as other countries.

The UAE suspended all regular commercial passenger operations form March 26 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We’re dealing with a monster here for which we clearly have to find a solution. Until there is a proven level of confidence medically that people can travel without fear of spreading or contracting the virus, the situation we find ourselves in is likely to continue.”

The airport operator has reportedly already taken measures to support the resumption of scheduled traffic including controlling costs, optimising liquidity, facilitating cargo and repatriation flights and preparing for the eventual activation of facilities and services at DXB.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is of a very different nature than any previous crisis in that it has affected supply, demand and health security and by extension the entire global economy,” stated Griffiths.

He added that until a medical solution is found, the industry will rely on bilateral agreements that enable the resumption of services.

Read: IATA calls on Saudi Arabia for support amid mounting virus concerns

“We will gradually start to see some confidence build between trusted countries where the governments have acted significantly enough and early enough to get the spread of the virus under control. As the UAE government took significant and early steps to get the virus under control, we are optimistic that there will be opportunities to pair with other governments that have been similarly effective to get air services going between them.”

He said that although millions across the world in lockdown are eager to travel, the inability to safely travel globally is further diminishing demand.

With regards to restoring customer confidence in the airport, Griffiths said that Dubai Airports will implement measures such as social distancing, conducting thermal screening and Covid-19 testing, as well as undertaking robust deep-cleaning and sanitisation to build confidence as air travel services resume.

“In the short term, until we get a medical and technical solution, we will have robust measures in place. And while we will all have to practice social distancing in the near term, the idea of social distancing as a permanent part of society would be so socially and economically destructive it would simply not be sustainable. With the human ingenuity in the medical field and technology now, it’s quite possible a combination of the two will bring us a primary solution to get back to the social norms we’ve enjoyed for centuries.”

“There will come a point where the world will open up again and the desire to travel will be even stronger than it has been in the past and Dubai Airports and the entire aviation community will be ready.”

Dubai carrier Emirates will operate scheduled passenger flights to nine destinations starting May 21, subject to government approval.

Read: Dubai’s Emirates to resume scheduled passenger flights starting next week

The destination cities spread across eight countries include London (Heathrow), Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.

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