How the aviation industry is helping the UAE fight Covid-19

Airports and airlines are national assets of supreme importance and they play an efficient role in the fight against the pandemic, writes Abu Dhabi Airports chairman

Construction of Midfield Terminal of Abu Dhabi Airport. Courtesy H.G. Esch
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The UAE’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has been exceptional, as it moved to take swift and effective action to limit the spread of the virus and reassure citizens and residents across the country.

Our ability to do so, and the success we have experienced within the UAE in combating the pandemic, is in part a result of our aviation infrastructure.

Airports and the aircraft they house are national assets of supreme importance and they play an efficient role in the fight against the pandemic. The ongoing freight and cargo operations at Abu Dhabi International Airport, and other airports across the UAE, are ensuring the delivery of vital supplies to healthcare workers, bolstering critical global supply chains and facilitating the shipment of humanitarian aid to 24 different countries impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hospitals and healthcare centres are dependent upon the timely delivery of masks and other protective and medical equipment, while consumers staying at home across the country are increasingly relying on the continued operation of air transport networks to deliver perishable foods and other essentials to their doorsteps.

Abu Dhabi Airports is also working in conjunction with all its partners from the public and private sectors to facilitate the repatriation and evacuation of stranded passengers, as well as enabling emergency and crisis response activities.

In addition to transporting integral goods and people around the world, the industry is also expected to be an enabler of the rapid economic recovery required to mitigate the long-term impact of Covid-19 on businesses and institutions around the world.

The aviation industry in the GCC and wider Middle East region supports $130 billion (Dh477.4bn) in economic activity, equivalent to 4.4 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product.

In the UAE, following decades of calculated investment that resulted in the nation becoming home to some of the world’s largest and most successful airports and airlines, 777,000 jobs and 13.3 per cent of GDP are supported by air transport and foreign tourists arriving by air.

Across the country, investments in airport infrastructure have topped $270bn and the industry is seen as having an important role to play in ensuring the continued economic and social growth of the UAE, the safety of its populace, and the preparedness of its institutions for future challenges and innovations.

However, border closures and travel restrictions in place to fight the pandemic are hitting the industry hard. The Airports Council International (ACI) estimated that airports around the world are set to lose 38 per cent of their traffic and 50 per cent of their revenues in 2020. But now is not the time to pull back. It is the time to work together, enhance cooperation throughout the industry, improve coordination between airports and government authorities, and strengthen partnerships with carriers and suppliers.

As an industry, aviation has always served an important purpose and has increasingly become a pillar of the global economy. By working together, and with the support of the UAE’s leadership, we are confident that our airports and airlines will emerge from this current period stronger and more focused than we were when it began.

The UAE’s people are counting on us now more than ever. The country’s aviation sector has, and will continue to be, one of the cornerstones upon which our future-socio economic development will be built. Through our implementation of a comprehensive range of health and safety measures for passengers and employees and by investing in mega facilities, we are stepping up across the board to curb the spread of Covid-19 even as we continue to maintain growth and development.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan is the chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports.