Dubai’s reputation as a leading international aviation hub is well deserved and now the title of being home to the busiest international airport also looks to be well within reach. With this in mind, Capital Club, Dubai’s premier private City Club and member of the ENSHAA group of companies, welcomed Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Airports, who since joining the company as its first CEO in October 2007, has been the driving force behind Dubai becoming one of the busiest and most successful aviation hubs in the world.
Speaking to a full house at a business breakfast that formed part of the Club’s highly popular ‘People Who Shaped Dubai’ series, Griffiths gave some unique insights into the growth of Dubai International and the strategy that has driven the hub’s phenomenal growth, poised to surpass a projected 71 million passengers this year.
Griffiths opened his talk by stating that the success of Dubai Airports would not have been possible without the support received from Dubai’s leadership, specifically from HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, who continues to remain personally involved in Dubai International and Dubai World Central’s growth and development. “It’s very liberating to be somewhere where you can come up with an idea and then proceed to put it into practice without being restricted by endless political debate,” he remarked.
He emphasised that this support has been a key element in Dubai International’s resounding success, which only becomes more impressive when considered against its backstory. “When the global financial crisis hit, everyone thought that Dubai International’s growth plans would come to and end. However, although we did have to seriously reconsider the way in which we would grow, we never stopped working to expand and develop. The answer, we realised, lay in the fact that when ways of increasing capacity in an airport are considered, there are two factors – the first is the size of the physical infrastructure and the second is the speed at which you move people through it. Simply put, if you can get people through an airport at twice the rate, you double your capacity, with the added benefit that you also increase customer satisfaction because they spend less time waiting around. This means that, for a capital investment that is considerably less than what is required to build new infrastructure, we could put new processes in place that significantly increased the flow rate through the airport and still continue to grow.”
The Dubai Airports CEO underlined that constant innovation and the implementation of cutting edge technologies have played a vital role in the airport’s ability to grow successfully. “An average day at Dubai International sees something like 190,000 passengers per day, more than 120 passengers a minute. To effectively handle this volume of traffic going through the airport every feature needs to be streamlined. At Dubai International this includes everything from having staff on hand to help travellers get where they need to be quickly, to ramping up the speed at which customers can proceed through our security processes – which in the case of Dubai, through the introduction of new technology, we have managed to improve from 190 per hour to over 400 per hour, which is just one example of a single change that has made a huge impact on efficiency.”
Talking about the expansion plans for Dubai Airports, Griffiths remarked that, although capacity can be greatly improved by streamlining passenger flow, physical expansion is also necessary. “Dubai Airports needs to expand its infrastructure, especially if you consider the passenger numbers that are being projected. We have now reached the point where we simply can’t build any more runways at Dubai International. The airport’s two runways are already handling around 1,000 flights a day, which in itself is a major accomplishment in the aviation world. In terms of Dubai International, the final phase of physical expansion possible will be reached with the opening of Concourse D, which will be linked to Terminal 1 by an automated train – the last piece of major infrastructure being put in place to enable us to deal with a capacity of 90 million passengers.”
He went on to comment that this increase would however only provide the growth in airport capacity needed until the end of the decade, which is where Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central comes in. “What makes Dubai World Central such an exciting project is that unlike any other airport that precedes it, we have put our customers’ needs at the centre of the design process. Every aspect of the design is aimed at either eliminating or limiting aspects of the airport experience that travellers dislike dealing with. This means we have looked at things like keeping walking distances as short as possible by using a modular concept and using innovation as much as possible to streamline every possible process.”
Elaborating on the role of innovation, Griffiths stated, “The way airports function has to change if we want to be able to deal with the issue of overcrowding at airports, because our future capacity problems will not be linked exclusively to the ability to deliver physical infrastructure. Transferring power to the people by leveraging mobile technology will make a massive difference and this is the main design criteria that we are carrying forward into the future airports that you will see in Dubai. We have to be innovative at Dubai International before we get to the new airport, because otherwise we will not physically be able to cope with the growth that we have predicted.”
The business breakfast with Paul Griffiths was the third instalment in the Capital Club’s ‘People who Shaped Dubai’ series of events and was supported by The Week, Motivate Publishing.
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