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Dubai airports are ready to see more growth: Ahmed Patrick Michael / 12 February 2014 Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, wears many hats with effortless ease. Even as airline and airport operators in other global markets struggle with uncertainty, he is leading the continuing growth of Dubai’s aviation sector, an unprecedented record in times of sectoral volatility. Under his supervision, the senior team of Emirates airline has proven to be reactive, consistently innovative and ahead of the global game. Having learnt the lessons of the global financial crisis, Shaikh Ahmed is adept at using the aviation sector’s significant footprint on gross domestic production (GDP) to steer Dubai’s economy along the right track. Beyond the immediate economy — and aviation-sector related strategies — he is also in charge of ushering in a greener Dubai, serving as chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy. Across all these roles, his functioning style is characterised by a thoroughly hands-on approach. More recently, he has been formulating economic, investment and fiscal policies and strategies in support of the emirate’s overarching vision. In a freewheeling interview, Shaikh Ahmed talks about Dubai’s aviation sector, Emirates’ challenges and opportunities and dismisses fears of another Dubai bubble. Excerpts from the interview: Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum with Jonathan Chen Chwen-Jing Ph.D, Political Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation (left), and Wan-Lee Lee, deputy director-general of the Civil Aviation Administration (right), during a Press conference to celebrate the launch of Emirates’ non-stop daily service between Taipei and Dubai. — Supplied photo Dubai went through a very difficult phase between 2009 and 2011. As the person who led the financial advisory council, what are the key lessons you learnt from the crisis? Is Dubai ready for another bubble? Shaikh Ahmed: There is no real bubble in Dubai and there’s nothing to indicate it is leading up to one. The countries that were crippled by the 2009 economic crisis have learnt their lessons well and most of them are now almost back on track, and so is Dubai. The real estate bubble that everyone seems obsessed with is really not there. The creation of regulatory bodies to oversee developers, brokers and financiers, besides others safeguards that have been put in place will ensure there will not be a repeat of the 2009 crisis. Dubai has surpassed the targeted GDP growth and achieved 4.9 per cent growth in 2013. Its property market will continue to grow even as its economy continues to climb. Remember, Dubai’s fundamentals as a regional hub of shipping, services, people, trade and capital have not changed. If one considers the construction sector, a corporate diversification yielded high returns for five years, which helped (install) new infrastructure and fund the acquisition of new talent. What is the direct contribution of the aviation sector to the economy’s growth? What is the indirect jobs creation impact of Emirates in the UAE? Emirates is one of the major contributors to Dubai’s economy and we support the emirate’s overarching vision. We now support 28 per cent of Dubai’s GDP growth and will continue to do so as we move towards our target of 20 million passengers by the time Expo 2020 opens. Emirates has created thousands of jobs, both direct and indirect, and as we continue to expand these numbers will continue to grow. Dubai follows a three-pronged model for its aviation sector growth: Investing in airports, investing in aircraft, and addition of new destinations. Several other cities in the Arab world are following the same pattern. How much regional competition can be sustained in this industry? Is the growing competition a cause for worry? Are there openings for strategic collaborations? There’s absolutely no cause for worry. Everyone wants a slice of the cake and taste success and the cake is big enough for all who want to enter the industry and take a slice of it. It would be up to us to see how much of that slice we can take. I’ve always maintained, there is room for all. Over the years, there have been many new players like Qatar Airways, flydubai and Etihad, and all of us (are) doing well with enough of the cake left for those still eyeing a piece. As far as strategic collaborations go, we have an open mind. We already have code-sharing deals which are working to both parties’ benefit and we will continue to look at and study any and all collaborations that come our way, since these will vary from country to country. Shaikh Ahmed meets Taiwan President Staff Report Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), Chairman of Dubai Airports, and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, met the President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou in Taipei on Tuesday. Shaikh Ahmed was in Taiwan to celebrate the launch of Emirates’ daily non-stop flights between Dubai and Taipei, which will open new opportunities both for business and for tourism, inbound and outbound. Shaikh Ahmed was joined at his meeting by Ali Mubarak Al Soori, Emirates’ executive vice-president — Chairman’s Office, Facilities/Projects Management and Procurement & Logistics, and Mohammad Al Ghaith. Later, Shaikh Ahmed along with Jonathan Chen Chwen-Jing Ph.D, Political Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation and Wan-Lee Lee, deputy director-general of the Civil Aviation Administration, held a Press briefing with over 70 Taiwan-based journalists and also media that had travelled from the UAE and the GCC on Monday’s inaugural flight. “Emirates has been working hard to promote Taipei across our global network and we will continue to do so. We are known as a connector of people, places and passions, and we look forward to connecting Taipei with our network,” said Shaikh Ahmed. Minister Chen extended his congratulations to Emirates, “Emirates is well known for its premium and quality service worldwide. Emirates’ Taipei-Dubai direct flight service offers Taiwanese passengers a more connected network and diversified options, and more importantly, help promote Taiwan tourism to the world. We expect more frequent interactions between both sides, and more people could learn about Taiwan.” “Emirates has been awarded Skytrax World’s Best Airline 2013, and we are happy to welcome another world-class airline to enter Taiwan. In recent years more and more Taiwanese value their pastime and choose travelling abroad to experience different cultures. Emirates non-stop service between Taipei and Dubai enables more Taiwanese to visit the Middle East, and vice versa,”said Lee. Is there possibility of overcapacity post-Expo 2020? Dubai is investing significantly in new aircraft and airport expansion in preparation to host World Expo 2020 and I can see no threat of overcapacity. Dubai is now the world’s fourth busiest airport for international passenger and cargo traffic and I expect to see more growth and recognition for Dubai. Expo 2020 is not for just two or three weeks. It’s for six whole months. This will allow us to spread our wings further and sustain the (airline’s) growth and profitability long after the expo is over. We will continue to expand and connect to more destinations. Many countries continue to approach us because of the airline’s high standards. The Dubai International Airport is set to undertake runway repair work later this year. What are the measures taken to ensure the shift does not affect international airlines’ operations? While the shifting is not simple, I am confident it will be a smooth one. We have picked the months when air traffic into Dubai is not so high. Some of the airlines will operate from Al Maktoum International Airport while most will continue to land at the Dubai International Airport. We expect no problems in the operations. The repair work will be undertaken between May and July and I don’t foresee any major disruption in traffic. Does Dubai have the capacity for two airport hubs? Al Maktoum International Airport is set to become a hub by 2020, especially as infrastructure in the vicinity gains traction. Dubai has always been about growth. The core business model of Dubai remains sound. With or without a booming real estate sector, Dubai is a commercial and tourism hub for a region that encompasses the markets of emerging Africa, South Asia, Russia, Central Asia and of course, the Gulf region. So yes, I am confident Dubai has the capacity for two airport hubs. Even as airline connectivity gains ground, one of the key concerns in the region is the choking air traffic congestion over the regional airspace. Will that affect Dubai’s expansion plans? We are not worried. We are in talks with other GCC aviation industry officials about air traffic congestion fears, but this will not in any way stop our expansion. At a time when airlines globally are yet to make robust returns, how does Emirates sustain its profitability? I have no doubts that Emirates will continue to be a profitable airline. Our strategies are in place and we will continue to expand and connect with more destinations even as we order new aircraft. The Boeing 777X is one of the largest orders we have placed and we hope to see this aircraft take to the skies by 2019. The new aircraft we have ordered will also have something even more pleasing and exciting for our passengers. The design is being worked on but right now that is a secret that will be revealed only when the time is right. Why the new flight to Taipei? Taipei has been an important market for Emirates since we launched our freighter services to the city in 2003. We have continued our commitment to Taiwan and due to the demand, we felt now was the right time to launch non-stop daily services between Taipei and Dubai. The service will bring Taiwanese consumers much closer to the UAE and the Middle East and we are very optimistic about this route. Through Dubai, Emirates offers passengers from Taipei a one-stop connection to 80 countries across the world. We are confident that this new route will open up new trade opportunities across the Emirates network as well as supporting business and tourism travel to Taipei. Etihad is expanding its footprint significantly through new alliances and equity participation. Will Emirates look at such participation in markets such as India, where the aviation sector is opening up? India has always been an important market for us and will continue to be so. Its sheer size and population dictate this and a big percentage of our profits comes from this market. But as far as the first part of your question goes, we have an open mind. Nothing is ruled out. What are Emirates’ plans for Africa? Which are the growth markets you see on the continent? Africa is another big market for us. It is a growth market and we will be looking at it very closely though I cannot tell you right now which market we will be connecting to next. — firstname.lastname@example.org For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/khaleejtimes , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →
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