OBG talks to Tony Douglas, CEO, Abu Dhabi Airports

Tony Douglas, CEO, Abu Dhabi Airports

Interview: Tony Douglas, 

Why is there a need to construct the Midfield Terminal Building (MTB)?

TONY DOUGLAS: Over the past 10 years, passenger traffic has experienced tremendous growth at a compound annual rate of around 12%. Much of that can be attributed to Etihad Airways (EA), which has undergone considerable expansion and statistically has become the fastest-growing airline in the world. Their unprecedented purchase order at the Dubai Airshow in 2013 clearly demonstrates their confidence in the market and that they intend to sustain their momentum. Additionally, with two-thirds of the world’s population and 100 capital cities within a six-hour flight of Abu Dhabi, continued growth is inevitable.

However, if we look a little deeper we would also discover that much of the populace within that scope is young and a growing majority exceeds an annual income of $25,000, meaning that their capacity for leisure travel is beginning to accelerate rapidly.

Around 10 years ago, the centre of the global economy in terms of geography was Vienna. However, as the emerging economies of the East, primarily China and India, continue to expand that centre has shifted eastward with the centre-point being the GCC.

It is likely that it will remain this way for the foreseeable future, but perhaps with a slight shift south as Africa propels its economy forward. The question from here is, who will capitalise? Many of these emerging markets in the East and in Africa do not have the resources to build their own aviation hubs and European carriers are slowly in decline. That leaves an opportunity for GCC carriers to take advantage. A number of airlines including Emirates, Qatar Airways and EA have all identified the opportunity. At the Dubai Airshow they combined to purchase over $200bn worth of commercial airplanes, which again demonstrates their confidence in the future of the aviation industry in the region.

Some have questioned the scale and pace at which this region has expanded its airport and airline capacity, but, given the facts, it is quite likely that even greater capacity will be required. MTB, which will be able to accommodate an additional 30m passengers annually, has been constructed to keep pace with forecast growth. Additionally, history demonstrates that rarely has a developed economy ever had an abundance of infrastructure. On the contrary, most regret that they had not invested in further capacity.

Investing in transport is vital to achieve global connectivity, which is essential to become a leading global economy. One does not exist without the other.

How is interim capacity development keeping pace with passenger and cargo volume in the lead up to the MTB in 2017?

DOUGLAS: Abu Dhabi International Airport now handles over 16.5m passengers and is expected to grow at around 12% annually. As a result, more than 18m passengers are predicted to pass through in 2014.

When MTB opens in 2017 we will be able to fully accommodate demand. However, in the interim we have been required to take into account the airplanes that have been ordered by EA and the level of expectation for short-term growth.

In 2013 we made some upgrades to our arrivals hall, which will create additional capacity to our existing infrastructure. In November of 2013 we also opened a brand new coaching facility and EA has already renovated its existing business lounge, which is significantly larger than the existing facility.

Projects already under way, as well as those set to come on-line in 2014, include the addition of nine more remote aircraft hardstands, which can accommodate all aircraft sizes, and the expansion of baggage handling facilities.

Further, in January 2014, we put our southern runway out of service in order to widen the facility and accommodate the Airbus 380. Essentially, we are undergoing an acceleration of growth which supports EA and acts as a gap filler before MTB opens in 2017.

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2014

Transport chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2014

Cover of The Report: Abu Dhabi 2014

The Report

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