Abu Dhabi International Airport’s great advantage

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Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) is a public joint-stock company wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi Government. ADAC runs Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), which is positioning itself as another fast growing hub for passenger and cargo traffic in the Middle East. Within the next few years, over 30 million passengers are expected to use AUH as their origin, destination or transit point for international and domestic flights. The Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC), Abu Dhabi Airports’ iconic expansion project, is being constructed to handle increasing passenger traffic. The project features a full terminal building, passenger and cargo facilities, duty free shops and restaurants for an initial capacity of 30 million passengers per year. Tony Douglas, who is the chief executive of ADAC, has considerable experience in building seaport and airport infrastructure. He was the former CEO of London Heathrow and is known in the Middle East for opening Khalifa seaport on time and within the budget, a rare feature for most of the infrastructure projects anywhere in the world. Douglas shares his thoughts on performance by AUH, new development by ADAC and AUH setting new benchmarks.

How do you assess the extremely good performance of Abu Dhabi International Airport both in passenger traffic and the volume of cargo handled in the first quarter of 2014 in the context that the airports in the Middle East always do better than their counterparts in the rest of the world? The passenger and cargo performance witnessed growth in passenger and cargo areas by 15.1 per cent and 15.8 per cent, respectively, compared to the same period in 2013. There are several positive factors at play here which we've benefited from. Economies throughout the GCC, and some parts of the Middle East, are in a robust state compared to many other parts of the world and there’s a strong demand for premium travel as countries in the region develop and grow. We're seeing more trade opportunities with emerging markets which boosts our freight tonnage. Ideally located between the East and West, Abu Dhabi is a strategic global hub for commerce and travel and it has a strong, resilient and ever-growing economy. Airlines and cargo operators in Abu Dhabi are able to capitalise on emerging business and tourism markets in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. The rest of the world is performing relatively well in terms of air travel but there are still parts of the globe that don't have the economic growth that is currently taking place in this region. What’s more, Abu Dhabi International Airport is in close proximity to Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), one of the world’s biggest industrial zones. This means businesses in KIZAD can tap into a market of more than two billion consumers within four time zones. The airports growth is directly related to our largest customer Etihad Airways, whose aggressive expansion plans has seen them growing both their aircraft fleet and their global network of routes at an exponential rate.

What are some of the things that airports in the Middle East are doing better and different, almost setting unique growth trends and better benchmarks for global airports? The key airports in the Gulf region with mega expansion plans - Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha - all benefit from our geographical location. With ultra-long range aircraft manufactured by both Airbus and Boeing there is virtually nowhere in the world that you cannot fly nonstop to and from these cities. At Abu Dhabi International Airport our home based airline Etihad Airways flies directly to cities such as Sydney and São Paulo and will soon start operating to Los Angeles. So we have a great advantage for air travelers and freight forwarders that we can fly nonstop to all continents. Secondly, Abu Dhabi is a perfectly positioned as a transit destination, with 100 of the world’s capital cities and two thirds of their populations within six flying hours flying time from Abu Dhabi. 81 percent of the population is within eight flying hours. The epicenter of the world has moved to pretty much where we are now. Additionally, here in Abu Dhabi, the government has a long term strategic plan for the development of the Emirate, which is Vision 2030. This vision provides all of us with a clear direction for the future. So in aviation, both ourselves and Etihad Airways are able to plan a long way into the future and devise long term strategies rather than short term piecemeal solutions which can be seen elsewhere in the world.

With significant new development in DWC and in Doha where do you see Abu Dhabi International Airport in the aviation business of the Middle East? With the development of the Midfield Terminal in Abu Dhabi what are the chances of Abu Dhabi International Airport becoming a major hub for passenger and cargo traffic in the Middle East? I'd say right at the outset that Abu Dhabi International Airport is already a major hub for both passenger and cargo traffic in the region. And our role will become even more significant in the years ahead. The geographical location of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar means that the main airports of the two nations will all be winners. My own focus and responsibility is to oversee the building and opening of the Midfield Terminal in Abu Dhabi which when it opens in 2017 will be the largest passenger air terminal in the world.

Could you give us an update on the development of the Midfield Terminal Building? Do you expect to complete the work and open it for operation as per your deadline? The construction of the spectacular Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport is unfashionably on time! It will be an iconic building in the rich history of commercial aviation and currently there are 17,000 workers on site all focused on delivering it on time and within budget. I have set a clear target that it will be open for business in July 2017 and I have absolutely no doubts that we will meet that exact deadline.

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