Delivering the keynote address at the Global Airport Leaders’ Forum in Dubai, the Minister said the country’s huge aviation growth, which will see another 604 aircraft join its existing fleet of 762 by 2030 will require major technology investment.
“This requires us to reverse our traditional business models and resort to innovative technologies to keep up with new challenges. Technology is no longer an optional luxury, it has become a necessity to maintain airport fluidity, safety and security,” he said.
However, the Minister warned that without solid security systems, technology could “do us more harm than good” and he cited the launch earlier this year of the Advance Passenger Information Centre in Abu Dhabi as a model to maintaining border security.
The Minister touched on the issue of open skies, currently subject of hot debate in the wake of the three biggest American carriers calling for a limiting of Gulf airline operations in the US. HE Al Mansoori alluded to UAE’s open skies stance as a success model.
“Our airports are the gates of the UAE and the warmth of our Arabian hospitality is reflected in opening our gate for carriers of the world. We believe that accommodating global operators, regardless of their ownership, is not only driven by our sense of duty, but it represents a message to the world. Thanks to this open approach, we have today over 785 registered aircraft and over 500 registered foreign operators enjoying the benefits of moving passengers in and out of the UAE. Airports and air transport sectors cannot prosper without free flow of passengers between airports.”
The Minister said the UAE has adopted the right formula for sustainable airport growth. “The main components,” he said, “are national and regional co-operation regarding safety and security, investment in technology as well as educating the general public. These are vital factors to facilitate the passengers’ demands while investing in capacity building.”
The US-Gulf open skies debate also featured in the address by out-going Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Raymond Benjamin. He said while global air traffic volumes are expected to double by 2030, the Middle East could see a 100% increase by 2020.
The Secretary General said when debating liberalisation within the aviation sector, the industry needs to define the over-riding decisive phrase “fair and equitable competition.”
The Gulf-US airline open skies issue, he said, should be: “Focussed on business models, the facts and figures and not controversy.” He added that route development is mainly locked into bilateral restrictions which needed to see “greater flexibility” with ICAO contending that airports should be included in bilateral agreement discussions.
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