Interview: Ali Majed Al Mansoori

What steps are being taken to improve passenger and cargo transportation at airport facilities?

ALI MAJED AL MANSOORI: ADAC operates the emirate’s five airports. Its role is to deliver aviation infrastructure and services that cater to the needs of the capital, the nation and the region. To this end, ADAC is spearheading capacity expansion plans for Abu Dhabi International Airport, which catered to 12.4m passengers in 2011 and an estimated 14m in 2012, through the development of the new Midfield Terminal Complex, which will cater for 30m passengers per year on completion in 2017. ADAC is also developing infrastructure at the other airports in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Capacity increases at the existing terminals are also planned to handle growing volumes of transfer passengers, prior to the opening of the new terminal. The programme includes development of an arrivals hall, bus gates, security screening facilities and additional A380-capacity gates and stands. Work will be also be carried out at the 700,000-sq-metre Midfield Terminal Building to develop East Midfield, a 200-ha support area that will have cargo-handling facilities, in-flight catering, ground handling and other ancillary support for the growth of the airport. As an airport with significant land reserves and free trade zone status, ADAC is also working with private investors to develop complementary commercial activities. Current projects include a new hotel linked to Terminal 3, a retail link, and the T3 business park.

How will the creation of the Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ) help to establish the emirate as a regional business centre for foreign investment?

AL MANSOORI: The ADAC Free Zone initiative will improve business and attract global firms to ADAFZ. The zone comprises business, logistics and light industrial parks that are operated by ADAC as one-stop service centres. These parks have customised products and services that will attract industry clusters in aviation, aerospace, logistics, manufacturing, technology, IT, marketing, consultancy, knowledge development, service providers and regional headquarters of global industries. This ultimately transforms the location into an “Aerotropolis”, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country in line with Economic Vision 2030. Airports from across the world have developed extensive airport city and free zone programmes that attract FDI and deliver billions in trade turnover, thus boosting airports’ non-aeronautical revenues, as well as significantly contributing to the local economies. Similarly, the creation of ADAFZ was part of an initiative launched by ADAC, aiming to attract and support private sector involvement. Firms will use the free zone as their base from which to access and service the global markets.

How will stakeholders manage future growth?

AL MANSOORI: ADAC has a working relationship with stakeholders and government entities, ensuring that projects are strategically planned, in-line with the Abu Dhabi long-term plan, serving Economic Vision 2030. ADAC maintains open communication lines with various government organisations to ensure compatibility and transparency in all relevant activities, and to capitalise on relevant initiatives to deliver sustainable growth for the aviation sector in the emirate.

What would a GCC-wide “open sky” policy mean for the aviation sector in Abu Dhabi?

AL MANSOORI: Open skies is an international policy concept that calls for liberalisation of rules and regulations within the international aviation industry – especially commercial aviation – to create a free-market environment for airlines. For it to be effective, all GCC countries must agree to an Air Transport Agreement; failure to reach to a unified agreement may disappoint major airlines, as it may favour countries that have only one flag carrier. Most GCC countries have announced liberalisations to their air systems, however, these counties are still restrictive and protective of their national carriers. We believe that the aviation system in the GCC is moving toward a more liberalised open sky policy.