Airport Show 2018 report: growth in exhibition and UAE aviation industry are concurrent

Source: Airport Show.

It is fitting that Airport Show, annually held in Dubai, was a busy affair this year. Dubai Airports have witnessed positive growth in traffic and passenger numbers over the last year, demonstrating that Dubai is now a metric for the healthiness of the aviation industry.

The aviation industry is now second only to oil as the biggest contributor to the country’s GDP and Dubai Airports handle a new passenger every six seconds. As travellers continue to use Dubai as a destination for business and pleasure, Airport Show in Dubai flexed its strength as the world’s largest annual airport exhibition.

Airport Show 2018 in Dubai was previewed in the spring issue of Airside International in which Daniyal Qureshi, group exhibition director of Reed Exhibitions Middle East, the event organiser, discussed a positive outlook going into the show earlier this month.

Qureshi noted that Reed are “happy about the progress of the Airport Show and the event saw a 10% increase in visitors in 2017”. Airport Show expected 7,500 attendees and 350 exhibiting companies from 90 countries in 2018.

Exhibiting companies were organised into country-specific pavilions at the 2018 event. German solutions providers stood next to British manufactures, for example. It allowed attendees and visitors good accessibility. As was the case last year, technological prowess was a prime asset on show by many companies.

Qureshi noted in Airside that “almost everywhere, especially in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf regions, airports are acquiring technology fast enough to be trendy and head-and-shoulders above others.” Tom Willis reported on many technological and engineering innovations exhibited at the show earlier this month: Holaras spoke on its new FOD-eliminating airport sweeper; TIPS discussed how it is leading the way in electric ground support equipment (GSE) and CU Phosco outline how it is at the forefront of the airport LED lighting changeover.

Automation was also a notable presence at the exhibition with many companies displaying innovations based on automated designs. A new innovation that Oman Airports is focusing on, for example, is real-time baggage tracking for passengers. The airport envisions that it is something that can be adopted as a uniform service and would greatly contribute to the passenger experience at an airport.

Two forums returned from 2017: CAPA’s Global Airport Leaders’ Forum and the Women in Aviation general assembly for the Middle East. A new addition, the ATC forum – a dedicated event for the subject of air traffic control – was part of Airport Show’s initiative to “[demonstrate] to visitors that we are addressing some key subjects in the industry right now.”

As before, Tom Willis reported on many of the key discussions during the events running alongside the exhibition in May. Airline-airport relations were supported by aviation leaders in the country with airport operators and airlines needing to establish a “mature relationship” through constant communication and establishing common goals.

Sheikh Aimen bin Ahmed Al Hosni, Oman Airports CEO posed that the airline-airport relationship should be one that is mature and based upon strong communication. He evidenced the partnership of Emirates and flydubai and the growing passenger numbers the coupling of the two airlines has posted as an example of successful collaboration airports and airlines could follow.

A panel on Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) was another timely conversation at Airport Show. Collaboration in aviation is invariably a topic of discussion when airport leaders come together. A-CDM is a practical expansion of this discussion. It aims to improve efficiency at airports – many of which are increasingly congested. Data is shared as A-CDM is implemented between numbers of different partners at airports.

At Airport Show in Dubai the topic involved looking at how far the success of A-CDM is communicated to passengers. Or, even when it fails, this should be shared with the passenger. For example, delays are often not wholly explained to passengers leaving them frustrated and querying the airport for answers.

A consideration voiced by Qureshi in the spring issue of Airside involved investment in airport infrastructure.  Although investment in existing airports in the Middle East is high, the region has the second-lowest number of investments in new or planned projects after North America. A CAPA report in Dubai echoed this concern and highlighted the trend that capital expenditure on new airport projects has risen to over $800bn, although construction on existing airports has not significantly improved.

The report, CAPA Global Airport Construction Review 2Q2018, noted that ‘since the last report capital expenditure on airport projects at existing airports has fallen but that on new airports has risen for an overall total of just over $800bn.’

The report further stated that Asia Pacific is leading the way in projects and investment. Capital expenditure is also high in the US, although on existing airports and not new ones. The Middle East is the region most lacking in investment as attention is driven towards concentrating on existing airports.

The forums on air traffic control were valuable additions to the landscape of discussion at the event. Earlier in the year, Airside reported that Qureshi remarked “the global ATC equipment market will be worth $4.23 billion. Air traffic management tops the chart of priorities for the airports and civil aviation authorities.

Whereas ATC and ATM have been pertinent subjects in the industry before, the dialogue in Dubai focused on the future of ATC as drive by tech again. Tom Willis reported on remote ATC in Sweden and wrote that “Airport operator Swedavia, in partnership with the country’s civil aviation authority, LFV, has demonstrated that a new solution can – and has – been adopted to ensure air traffic control runs smoothly in Sweden’s airports without the need to construct on the apron.”

Remote air traffic control systems operated at Sweden’s Kiruna, Umea, Are Ostersund and Malmo airports aim to improve air traffic movements in the country with a ‘keep it simple’ approach.

Moving away from the cluttered desks of traditional air traffic control towers, the new remote towers are operated off-site close to the airports. There is also the ability to connect multiple airports in one off-site location, ensuring that the smaller airports in Sweden are as safe as the larger counterparts.

An ever-relevant region in the industry, The United Arab Emirates and Dubai Airports are expected to handle over 100 million passengers by just 2020 with movements at the airports increasing 50% over the last eight years. Also, as Qureshi noted earlier this year, forecasts by experts and stakeholders suggest that airlines in the Middle East plan to invest $450 billion to increase the size of their fleets by 160% by 2030. The growth of Airport Show in Dubai and the aviation industry in UAE are concurrent and it is clear to see why the exhibition and forums expanded in 2018.