What were your passenger figures for 2010? How did this compare to 2009? What are your projections for 2011?
GRIFFITHS: This year our passenger traffic is going to pass the 50m mark for the first time. We are going to record something like 50.9m for 2011 and that is up from 47.2m in 2009 and has represented 50 years of very robust growth at Dubai Airports. Since 2005, we have doubled our traffic and our average growth rate since the airport started in 1960 has been 15.5% per annum.
Has political tension in the region had any impact on arrivals in Dubai?
GRIFFITHS: Over the last year what we have seen is a different geographic composition of traffic. There have been some swings between different parts of the world, but we have added new routes and there have been increases in capacity, particularly to places like the US, South America, Russia, and Asia.
In what ways has the proliferation of low cost carriers impacted the transportation industry in the UAE?
GRIFFITHS: The biggest impact in the low cost carrier market here in Dubai has been the establishment of flydubai, which within a year of its launch in June 2009 became the 2nd largest carrier here at Dubai International. A large part of our growth program for the future will be facilitating the growth of carriers such as flydubai as well as supporting the growth of more established carriers, particularly our home base carrier Emirates.
What is the status of airport expansion at Dubai International Airport? How will this increase the airports capacity and capabilities? When will the expansion be complete?
GRIFFITHS: In April this year we drew up a plan called SP 2020, which outlines how Dubai International and Dubai World Central will be catering to future passenger and cargo demand. This received the approval of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in July this year and we have now announced our $7.8bn program of infrastructure expansion both at Dubai International and Dubai World Central. This will bring up passenger capacity to 90m passengers by 2018 and will set the stage for growth at Dubai World Central, which will take place during the 2020s.
In 20 years’ time the UAE’s 6 largest airports (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Al Maktoum, Sharjah, RAK) will have a combined capacity of over 300m passengers per annum. How would you respond to critics who say that such expansion will result in massive overcapacity?
GRIFFITHS: Obviously Dubai World Central will be the largest airport in the world for international traffic when it is completed with 5 runways and capacity for 160m passengers. With the current population, of the UAE at something like 5.6m, this may sound like somewhat of an aggressive plan. But I think the thing is, airports in Dubai and other parts of the UAE and indeed the GCC, are not actually being created for a domestic market. They are actually there to compete on the world stage for market share of just about every aviation market across the globe because the Middle East is a the epicenter of all of the major traffic flows between all the major regions and the greatest cities in the world.
What new technological upgrades are being implemented in Dubai’s airports?
GRIFFITHS: Obviously expansion is not just about building stuff. That has been the old technology solution to airport capacity. What we are now looking at is the technology and the processes and the systems within the airport environment in order to create a much better and smoother flow of passengers and to improve our service levels. Capacity is actually two elements in an airport environment; it is the size of the facility but also the flow rate of customers that you can achieve through that facility. So what we are trying to do now is work with new technology that will allow us to combine some of the old legacy processes into single seamless unobtrusive high-tech solutions that will make those processes seem almost invisible to the customer. One really big advantage that we believe we are going to have with customer service and capacity is that we want to remove the time that people take in going through the airport in going through security, customs, immigration, check-in, and dealing with baggage. It is estimated that 50% of a customers time at an airport is spent in these processes when they could be relaxing, eating, or drinking in our restaurants and bars, and they could be spending a lot more time shopping. The global Duty Free market is worth something like $38bn, so if you can increase the dwell time and the demeanor of customers whilst they are in that retail environment, then the possibilities of increasing that huge spend are endless.
The aviation industry here in Dubai is actually an incredibly important industry; it forms 28% of the total GDP of Dubai and contributes $22bn annually to that GDP. It is also incredibly important for employment, it accounts for 19% of all employment here in Dubai, which is 250,000 jobs that are in or are related to the aviation sector.
How important is the Dubai Airshow to the aviation industry?
GRIFFITHS: The Dubai Airshow is a unique event. There is no other event like it that takes place at a major international airport. I think the thing is, if you tried to explain it to any other airport on the planet, they just wouldn’t get it. So we are really proud here in Dubai that we can really do things because of the enlightened attitude from the top of the royal family here that just couldn’t take place elsewhere. It is incredibly important. It is a major event in the aviation calendar every two years and we like to think that people come here because it is bigger and because it is better. We are able to show the sort of hospitality that other parts of the world do not even approach.
What part will aviation and transportation play in Dubai’s long-term economic vision?
GRIFFITHS: The aviation industry here in Dubai is actually an incredibly important industry; it forms 28% of the total GDP of Dubai and contributes $22bn annually to that GDP. It is also incredibly important for employment, it accounts for 19% of all employment here in Dubai, which is 250,000 jobs that are in or are related to the aviation sector. You can imagine with that degree of economic importance, which is only going to increase over time, we get a very large share of voice in the strategy and the development of the economy of Dubai. The aviation model in Dubai is the envy of the world and that is because of the very close integration between all the various entities within Dubai. The fortunate thing is that our Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed, is also the head of Emirates, Dnata, Dubai Civil Aviation, all the entities in fact report to that one individual. So if you need a critical decision about some major infrastructure project or expansion project, you can get all of the decision makers into a small room and make that decision very quickly. In other parts of the world, that would be impossible. Even if you could find a building large enough, the chance of reaching consensus across the whole sector is very small.