The shared aviation challenge in Asia and the Middle East - Gulf Business
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The shared aviation challenge in Asia and the Middle East

The shared aviation challenge in Asia and the Middle East

The shared aviation challenge in Asia and the Middle East

Aviation is both a shared opportunity and a challenge for countries in Asia and the Gulf, writes Tony Tyler

By 2034, 7.3 billion passengers globally are expected to take to the skies. That is more than double the 3.5 billion passengers that will travel by air this year.

Building the infrastructure to meet this growing demand for people and businesses to connect by air is a global challenge. But the pressure is particularly acute in fast-growing regions such as the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. By 2034, the airports and skies in those regions will need to be able to handle around 1.9 billion more passenger journeys than they do today.

The centre of gravity for global aviation is moving east. By 2030, the Asia-Pacific will have surpassed both North America and Europe in terms of passenger numbers. And by 2034 one in every five air travellers will be traveling to, from or within China. In the Middle East, we will see passenger numbers reach 365 million a year.

There is one market in Asia that towers above all others in scale. Nearly 70,000 flights a week operate to, from or within main- land China. That is about 10 per cent of the global total. And China and the Gulf have a shared aviation challenge. Although much progress has been made to improve the efficiency of air traffic management, flight delays in both China and the Gulf are still an issue. The cost of the frustration to both passengers and airlines is real in terms of lost productivity.

Without compromising on safety, solutions for air traffic delays are urgently required. Much more capacity could be made available through better sharing of airspace between civilian and military operations. Flexibility and predictability would also help. In the first instance that means giving airlines more options to plan their flight routes in light of prevailing weather and traffic conditions. And if it is combined with ‘flow management’ techniques, there will be a further efficiency dividend from greater predictability. If these solutions are implemented, it will not be too long before bot- tlenecks are freed up in both China and the Gulf.

In the meantime, the question that all governments in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific should be considering is how to link their economies even more efficiently through aviation. There is no off- the-shelf solution but there are some strategies that are proven.

The first is for governments to understand the importance of air connectivity built on global standards and to include it as a priority in their economic strategies. In parts of the Middle East, the track record in this regard is very strong. It is happening in some parts of the Asia-Pacific but it is not universal. The second is to work in partnership. The better the understanding between governments and industry, the more effective the infrastructure investments wil be. It will help ensure that infrastructure capacity is able to meet growing demand. And, it will help to build cutting edge global standard processes that deliver both efficiency and convenience.

Forward-thinking policies to free up airlines to pursue business where demand exists are only part of the success story. Cost-efficient infrastructure must be available to accommodate demand. And, of course, the fiscal regime must support business growth. Ill-conceived taxes will quickly short-circuit the benefits of healthy, connected and growing economies for governments, consumers and businesses alike.

Historically, many key states in the Middle East and Asia- Pacific have shown leadership on infrastructure. They are home to several of the world’s best and biggest airports. The travel experience through some of these great hubs is certainly among the most pleasant. But it will not stay that way without continuous hard work, strategic investments and regional cooperation.

The Asia-Pacific and the Middle East both have great potential to lead global aviation in the coming decades. A strategic policy approach and true partnerships are the way to ensure the region derives the full benefits of the expected traffic growth.

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