I don’t think that there can be any doubt that the biggest challenge affecting the aviation industry in the Middle East is congestion. With the rapid growth of Air Arabia, Emirates, Etihad, FlyDubai and Qatar Airways, the infrastructure to support that growth is under ever increasing pressure.
Whilst new terminals can more effectively process passengers, runway capacity remains a limiting factor, and airspace, the “invisible infrastructure”, is similarly constrained. You wouldn’t build a new airport without effective roads or transit systems to allow passengers to get to and from it; efficient airspace is just as vital.
Airspace is an asset and just like any other it can be managed and maximised. That’s an idea that is becoming increasingly understood in the region and NATS has a team part way through a two year airspace design and implementation project at New Doha International Airport.
Likewise in the UAE, we’ve completed an operational performance summary at Dubai International Airport as well as developing a concept of operations and procedure design for the new Al Maktoum International Airport.
Increasing airspace capacity and effectiveness will ensure that arriving and departing passengers will benefit from on time performance. However of greater note, for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar especially, is that hub passengers are guaranteed to make their onward connections with no disruption to their journey.
It’s a simple truth that happy passengers who arrive on time and can make their connections are good for business, both for the airlines and the airport.
There is also definitely an immediate issue in the UAE especially regarding to the segregation of civilian and military airspace. Both obviously need airspace to carry out their vital business and national defence operations, but many European countries, including the UK, have adopted the principle of Flexible Use of Airspace.
This means airspace is no longer designated as purely “civil” or “military”, but considered as one continuum and allocated according to user requirements. In the UK civil and military controllers sit side by side, this means we’re better able to fully exploit airspace as a resource. It is an approach that the region could certainly benefit from.
[Header image by Elmar Bajora via Flickr]
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