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Predictions 2017: Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths

Predictions 2017: Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths

Griffiths indicates a more customer-centric approach is coming to Dubai’s airports

At Dubai Airports thinking long-term is an occupational necessity. Infrastructure development takes time. It starts with identifying requirements over a 10-15-year horizon based on projected growth; aircraft orders and evolving passenger needs and extends to detailed design, planning and execution.

As a result, while we are mindful of short-term fluctuations to regional and global traffic volumes due to social-economic factors, we must also take a longer-term view of macro-economic factors and emerging trends that will shape our world 10 years or more from today.

And our world is changing. According to OECD and IATA statistics, in Asia alone there will be 1.93 billion additional passenger journeys by 2034 (vs. 2014). Accelerating urbanisation is supporting the importance of air travel, and in turn the concentration of population will amplify the relevance of intercontinental hubs. Accordingly, airlines will continue to need to connect route networks to give people the ‘from anywhere to anywhere’ service they demand. As a result, the creation and expansion of the intercontinental hub will continue to play a vital role in the next two decades.

Additionally, Dubai’s growth trajectory and emergence as a global centre for trade, commerce, tourism and finance in the decades ahead will similarly put demands on airport infrastructure as a fundamental enabler of that economic expansion.

So, to be successful, airports will need to make sure they invest sufficiently in cost-effective connection services to enable these network efficiencies to be realised to cater for the increased mobility created by the expansion of the middle classes both in this region, and more specifically, in Asia.

But even as this pressure mounts, scale cannot be the sole focus. Historically the approach to airport expansion has been all about building stuff. At DXB alone we’ve spent about $13bn since 2008 on major new facilities. And we’re not alone. All over the world airport management companies are investing in bigger and bigger facilities to accommodate more and more passengers.

The traditional view of airport companies as infrastructure providers must change. We must become customer-centric. Every customer that passes through an airport, whether departing, arriving, or in transit has needs that are unique and most airports have yet to unlock the secrets of mass-customisation that has been pioneered so well in manufacturing. The answer is in our pockets…. well almost everyone’s pocket. A recent survey by SITA shows 81 per cent of passengers carry smartphones with them. And the pace of miniaturisation exceeds the growth in portable computing power. As technology has evolved and its usage skyrocketed, the world around us has changed. As have expectations.

This is heralding a new age of freedom: the freedom from the linearity of scale and capacity.

When you consider capacity equals space multiplied by flow, we can use technology to enhance flow through in the same space. That is the fundamental premise underlying our DXB Plus programme which is designed to improve service at space constrained Dubai International while boosting capacity to 118 million by 2023 without adding any significant infrastructure. And it is a driving consideration in the design and build of Dubai World Central, which will be the new home for Emirates airline in or around 2025 with capacity for 120 million passengers and unparalleled customer convenience.

We have a unique opportunity to take the next step in the evolution of the airport experience with our shared, connected customers. To do this we need to design and apply technology in a different way. And we must think completely differently. We must change our thinking and our approach and put the customer first. That means collaboration and shared ownership of the customer experience.

The winners will be those airports that invest in smart technology, infrastructure and collaborative processes that combine to deliver on customer needs. And Dubai Airports has a strategy in place to ensure we are in that winner’s circle.

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