Interview: Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

How has the recent shift in global air traffic patterns, mainly from the West to the East, affected the aviation industry in Dubai?

SHEIKH AHMED BIN SAEED AL MAKTOUM: Urbanisation, the shift of economic power eastward and the resulting emergence of a new middle class will continue to have an impact on traffic flows. Asia in particular will see tremendous growth, largely driven by its growing economies and middle-class populations in China and India, while African and Middle Eastern traffic will also continue to increase. Although European and North American growth is slower, both markets began with a larger starting base.

Dubai is well positioned to benefit from its geocentric location and from its well-established and fast-growing networks at its two airports. Currently Dubai International (DXB) serves over 100 airlines that connect 260 destinations.

What will be the impact of the transfer from DXB to Dubai World Central (DWC) on Dubai’s business environment?

SHEIKH AHMED: Business will continue to benefit from the development of two quality hubs, and both will provide options for UAE residents as well as for the millions of travellers from overseas who fly to or through Dubai every year. In the long term, and following the completion of the next phase of expansion, DWC is likely to evolve into Dubai’s intercontinental hub while DXB will serve regional airlines and markets. This is a strategy that will allow our two hubs to complement each other.

Looking at growth in terms of the shift in airports, from DXB to DWC, we at Dubai Airports can anticipate the relocation of the Emirates Airlines hub once the next phase of development of DWC is completed. That phase, which would provide capacity for 120m passengers, is projected to be completed around the mid-point of the next decade.

How can DWC compete for international travellers, and how will its location impact cargo?

SHEIKH AHMED: The proximity of hubs is not a significant factor when you consider that we are all attracting traffic from a massive and growing global marketplace. Due to our geocentric location, the development of top-flight infrastructure along with the rapid expansion of our home airlines, we have seen growth across both airports. This is expected to continue. In Dubai we project that 126m passengers will pass through our airports by 2020, and that the total will approach 200m by 2030. Similarly we can anticipate the continued growth of cargo volumes. DWC is already among the top 20 airports for international cargo volumes, after opening in 2010, while DXB is number three.

With passenger and cargo numbers increasing each year, what can Dubai do to maintain its capacity in the long term?

SHEIKH AHMED: In the long term, we will be investing in the expansion of DWC to achieve capacity of 120m passengers in the next phase of its development with an ultimate capacity of up to 240m passengers and 16m tonnes of cargo DWC will thus serve as Dubai’s intercontinental hub well into the future. With the rapid growth we are experiencing in all sectors, our ongoing challenge is to provide capacity to match the growing demand.

In 2016 we will complete the final element of a $7.8bn expansion programme at DXB with the opening of Concourse D, which will boost that airport’s capacity to 90m. With additional improvements to procedures and technology designed to improve flow, we anticipate an ultimate capacity of 100m passengers per year at DXB. In parallel, we are planning to expand the existing passenger terminal building at DWC from the current 5m-7m passenger capacity to 26m passenger capacity by 2018.