The growth of the aviation sector over the past 20 years is testament to the country’s ability to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbon sales. In a remarkably short time, the UAE has emerged as one of the world’s leaders in aviation. The present challenge is to maintain this edge through sound long-term strategy and building the best infrastructure in the world.
Congested airspace poses one such long-term challenge. Conversations at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi this week have focused on updating infrastructure that will alleviate the burden of congested airspace in the Middle East over the next 10 years. If this problem is left unaddressed, traffic delays and fuel costs stemming from congestion could cost the industry Dh36 billion.
With three major international airports, including the world’s busiest, the UAE stands to benefit from proposals such as the Middle East Air Traffic Management Programme. If implemented, the programme, which would tie together aviation authorities and regulators from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, would help keep the airways flowing smoothly.
In the post-oil economic landscape, the health of the aviation industry will bear heavily on the UAE’s overall economic well-being. If we look at the country’s aviation footprint as a whole instead of focusing on the growth of Emirates or Etihad Airways individually, the picture that emerges is a robust and healthy one. While Emirates has focused on making Dubai the world’s busiest hub airport and operates hundreds of routes with its own equipment, Etihad has cut a different path. Through alliances and partnerships, it has created an international network that is more flexible and cheaper to operate.
These strategies complement each other and provide the aviation sector with room to be nimble in a notoriously volatile market. Continued investment in the best infrastructure and greater communication to make air traffic run smoothly will ensure long-term growth.