The UAE’s aviation sector is forging ahead with a steady growth, benefitting from a wide range of expertise and achievements in providing advanced international airport solutions that have boosted the stature of the UAE’s national carriers.
From an early stage, the UAE government has realised the importance of the aviation sector to the country’s overall future sustainable development, so it constructed international airports, established leading international aviation companies, and invested billions in its infrastructure. The Dubai International Airport now leads globally in terms of the number of international travellers while Abu Dhabi International Airport is the fastest growing in terms of the same statistics.
The UAE has advanced transport and telecommunications networks and leading hotels, making it a link between the East and West and an international hub for tourism, business, transit and re-exporting, enabling its modern aviation sector to succeed in today’s competitive world.
Since 5th October, 1932, the date when the first plane landed at an Emirati airport in Al Mahatta Airport, Sharjah, the UAE’s aviation sector has achieved prosperity and now contributes around AED169 billion (US$46 billion), or around 15 percent, to the country’s GDP.
The fleet of the four national air carriers - Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia and flydubai - rose in size to 512 aircraft at the end of 2017, and the number of travellers going through the country’s airports increased to over 126.5 million in the same year.
According to statistics from the General Civil Aviation Authority, GCAA, the number of flights within the country’s airspace reached around 882,600 last year while the number of travellers going through Dubai International Airport reached 91.3 million. Abu Dhabi International Airport also processed 24 million travellers, while Sharjah Airport dealt with 9.76 million, Al Maktoum Airport with 899,000, Ras al-Khaimah Airport with 427,600, Al Ain Airport with 74,800, Al Bateen Airport with 11,000, Fujairah Airport with 3,400, and Al Dhafra Airport with 371.
The UAE’s national carriers are continuing their expansion on various foreign markets while benefitting from air transport agreements and Memorandums of Understanding signed by the GCAA with other countries and increasing their number of flights to many existing destinations.
The national carriers also added 13 new destinations to their international routes in 2017, reaching a combined total of 444 international destinations from various airports around the country.
On 5th October, the UAE celebrates the annual "UAE Civil Aviation Day," to highlight its accomplishments in the sector, keep pace with the latest developments and innovations, and adopt the most advanced air transportation and safety standards.
The UAE has also prioritised civil aviation security and has taken measures to guarantee the security of its various operations. It is also cooperating with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, and is playing a vital role in maintaining regional and international civil aviation security.
The UAE has achieved the first place internationally in complying with international air safety standards in 2015, after a comprehensive audit by the "Safety Audit Programme" of the ICAO, where it has registered the highest rating in the ICAO’s history of 98.86 percent.
The UAE is one of the first countries to focus on international research and innovation in the aviation sector, with the aim of providing safer and more environmentally friendly air operations. It also launched the "Innovation in Aviation Programme," which includes an award given every two years and aims to encourage innovation and creativity, by improving the experience of travellers, raising safety standards, and reducing emissions that damage the environment.
The UAE aviation sector also achieved success on land, through owning the most sophisticated and largest international airports in terms of capacity, number of flights, level of services, and facilitation for passengers.
Dubai International Airport is an international success story in the aviation industry, due to its accomplishments and its record number of travellers, which has made it among world’s leading airports and a leading centre of the aviation world.
Dubai International Airport deals with around 250,000 travellers and 1,200 flights on a daily basis and provides connection for millions of travellers to over 240 destinations, as a crossroad between the East and the West. The total number of travellers who used the airport from its launch in 1960 to the end of the current year is estimated at around one billion.
Dubai International Airport’s world-class facilities include the first and largest concourse in the world, or Concourse A, that can house the giant Airbus A380 aircraft, as well as expansion projects for 2020 costing US$7.8 billion that include a project to construct the modern Concourse D, which will be dedicated to serving international aviation companies, as well as the expansion and upgrading of Terminal 2 and the complete reconstruction of Terminal 1.
The construction of the new Abu Dhabi International Airport will advance the UAE’s aviation sector. The airport is expected to receive around 84 million travellers annually, or around 11,000 travellers per hour during peak periods.
Its baggage handling system will be one of the most advanced in the world and was designed to deal with over 19,000 bags per hour. The airport will also have 65 gates and 106 jet bridges.
The budget for the new airport has reached AED19.1 billion and it is the largest building under one roof in the world. The airport will be completed during the last quarter of 2019 while its pilot operation will begin by the end of 2018.
The building, which has an area of 742,000-square metres, with 200,000-square metres of external glass, will have the largest inner arch in the world, extending over a distance of 180 metres and a height of 52 metres while weighing in at around 1,000 metric tonnes. It will also include a wide variety of duty-free shops, restaurants and travellers’ halls.
The Sharjah International Airport, which is proud to be the landing site of the first aircraft that came to the UAE in 1932, has achieved many accomplishments over the years. The airport inaugurated the first air cargo terminal in the country and witnessed to launch of the first duty-free store.
In 1999, the World Meteorological Organisation, WMO, chose the Meteorological Department of Sharjah International Airport as an official meteorology centre in the UAE, to prepare reports on the country’s weather status while 2003 witnessed the launch of Air Arabia, the first private aviation company in the Middle East and North Africa.