Aviation industry soars to sustainable, technology-driven growth

The UAE’s aviation industry has reached great heights since the country welcomed its first travelers in the 1960s, having grown over the decades into a global powerhouse for air connectivity and standing in the era post-Covid at the dawn of a changing landscape with sustainability plans and future technology-driven growth.

The development of the local aviation industry over the decades, beginning with a compacted sand runway at Dubai International Airport in 1960 and the first Emirates airline flights with two planes on hire with crew in 1985, has transformed the nation from a place of fishing and scuba diving. into a global air transport hub.

“The UAE’s development as a global aviation power began with a bold vision in the 1960s collaboration. Careful planning and open competition played a key role in growing as a hub world of aviation in recent decades, ”said Linus Bauer, Founder and CEO of Bauer Aviation Advisory.

The rise of the UAE as a modern hub connecting East and West is a story of globalization and an ambitious bet on the future of air travel as the nation celebrates its Golden Jubilee on December 2.

In a series of milestones, Dubai has grown from a little-known desert airfield to a global airport connecting the far corners of the globe. The UAE’s strategic location between Europe and Asia within an eight-hour flight radius of two-thirds of the world’s population, operating a pre-pandemic network of 240 destinations and home to the world’s largest airline long- courier of the world, Emirates, is the engine of its success.

Facilitating decision-making and setting the big picture, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is the president of the airline and also heads the airport operator, as well as the aviation regulator.

In its aggressive pursuit of growth, Dubai International retained its title as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers for seven years, with the emirate becoming a center of transcontinental traffic between America and Europe with the Asia.

The aviation industry has been a key pillar of the UAE’s economy and a driver of business activity, contributing around 13% of the national gross domestic product, while boosting related hospitality sectors. Trade. It is now home to six national airlines ranging from low-cost operators to full-service operators.

“The aviation sector has been a key factor in transforming the UAE economy since the 1980s and developing it into a regional and then global service hub,” said Monica Malik, Chief Economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. “This is not only the direct contribution of the sector, but also its role in the development of areas such as tourism, hospitality, logistics, trade and finance.”

Dubai made the long-term strategic decision to diversify its economy in the 1980s, focusing on developing its aerospace sector as part of a campaign to increase its non-oil revenues, transforming the city into a hub of business, create jobs and attract tourists. Open skies policies, large investments in infrastructure and a favorable foreign business environment for investors have stimulated the development of the aviation industry.

Along with the development of the sector, Dubai has spent billions of dirhams on new attractions and relaxed visa rules to allow the arrival of more tourists, remote workers and highly skilled talent.

In a forward-looking strategy, the UAE has sought to be part of the aerospace supply chain, rather than just being a customer of billion-dollar aircraft orders placed with from the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers.

Layers. based in Al Ain, the aerospace manufacturing unit of Mubadala Investment Company, has become the leading producer of composite aircraft parts in the Persian Gulf and is a key part of the UAE’s plan for economic diversification and local industrialization . It started operations in 2010 and now manufactures components for jet wings, from the tail ribs of the Boeing 777X to the flap support fairings of the Airbus A350.

“The UAE government created a well-articulated strategy that included various strategic projects that have been implemented along the aviation-related value chain,” said Andre Martins, Partner in Transportation Practice and services in the Middle East and Africa at Oliver Wyman.

The UAE has also invested more heavily in smart transport. For example, the high-tech Virgin Hyperloop travel system supported by DP World will transport passengers and cargo via floating pods in vacuum tubes at speeds in excess of 1,000 km / h.

The UAE’s vibrant aviation sector will help accelerate the country’s continued economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, as it attracts more tourists, investors, workers and expatriates to the leisure and recreation center. regional affairs.

“Airlines and the industry will be at the heart of the UAE’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic. We are seeing more routes coming back and more planes,” Ms. Malik said. “In the future, the focus is likely to be on working with their partners for a greener and more fuel efficient aviation industry.”

Environmental sustainability has been a top priority for local airlines such as Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which announced its goal of net zero carbon by 2050 almost two years ago.

Etihad, which has focused on its fleet of Boeing 787s powered by GEnX as part of its Greenliner sustainability program, will now include the fleet of Airbus A350s powered by Rolls-Royce XWB. Etihad’s first A350, launched at the airshow as “Sustainability50”, marks the airline’s commitment to the 2050 goal of net zero carbon emissions.

Local airlines have adopted the latest technology to restart travel safely, reduce queues and minimize human contact through the use of facial recognition, biometrics and contactless points at airports.

“Embracing open competition and focusing on reopening and connecting markets through efficient operations in a safe manner are keys for Abu Dhabi and Dubai to become stronger as global aviation hubs in the world. post-pandemic era, ”said Bauer.

As the face of the UAE’s aviation industry has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, the coming decades promise more developments in sustainability, technology and business models to keep pace with the evolution of air transport. .

In 50 years the aviation industry will be very different, ”said Mr. Martins.

“There will be many new technologies, innovative business models will emerge; airports and ground handling will be fully automated; travel will be fluid and more pleasant; planes will be green, with completely different seating configurations and experiences; new emerging start-ups appear to be controlling end-to-end travel with hyper-personalization of offerings using the power of predictive analytics, ”he said.

“People will have different lifestyles, living and moving between different places more often, faster, easier and cheaper than today.”

Update: November 28, 2021, 5:31 am

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