Jan. 12, 2015

HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum

UAE, Dubai

HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum

Chairman & Chief Executive, Emirates Airline & Group


HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum is President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, also including Dnata, the sole ground handling agency at Dubai International Airport. He embarked on his journey in the aviation industry in 1985 when he was appointed President of Dubai Civil Aviation. He studied in teh UK and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver.

The UAE's investments in the aviation sector have underscored three decades of uninterrupted economic growth. What is your outlook for the sector, and what role does aviation play in the UAE's diversification efforts?

We have been very fortunate to benefit from the vision of our leaders, who continue to place aviation at the center of economic growth, unlike many countries where aviation has been given a more peripheral status. The aviation industry itself generates employment and economic activity within its own value chain, but more than that, commercial aviation also enables the growth of other industry sectors such as tourism, logistics, commerce, and professional services. The connections that aviation creates between cities and markets represent an important infrastructure asset that generates benefits through attracting FDI and talent, enabling business clusters, specialization, and other spill-over impacts on the economy's productive capacity. With this firm foundation in place, the outlook for aviation is extremely promising. Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) is now open to cargo and passenger flights, while at Dubai International, Terminal 2 has been extended, a major runway upgrade is drawing to a close, and when Concourse D is completed, capacity at Dubai International will be ramped up to 90 million passengers a year.

In 2013, Emirates moved over 40 million passengers. How is the airline planning to expand in the long term in order to accommodate the growing demand of the industry?

In the recently released 2013/2014 financial results, you can see that Emirates carried a record 44.5 million passengers, up 13% on the previous year. The airline continues to grow both fleet-wise and in terms of the destinations we serve. Our 220 aircraft, including 48 of our highly popular A380s, fly to 143 destinations across six continents. By 2020, we expect to be carrying 70 million passengers a year, feeding into an expected 20 million annual visitors to Dubai and supporting the predicted 25 million additional visitors to Dubai for Expo 2020. With all this in mind, we have more than 300 aircraft on order. So, we are very much preparing for the long term, and we will pursue new opportunities around the world as they arise.

What global travel trends do you see currently, and how is Emirates responding to them?

One of the reasons for Emirates' continued success is its agility in the global marketplace. By aligning operations acutely to demand and industry trends, the airline's growth remains lean. Africa remains a key continent for us. We currently operate to 25 destinations and two more will be added in August, namely Abuja and Kano in Nigeria, further lubricating links with China and the rest of the Far East. In the Americas, our growth is moving up a gear in the US with Chicago becoming our ninth destination in August, while Boston joined the network in March and is already being upgraded from a Boeing 777-200LR to a larger Boeing 300-ER, as of August. Europe has seen many of our route launches in recent years as one of the key commercial regions.

The latest figures from Dubai International also show Europe performing strongly. In the month of April, Western Europe achieved the highest growth in passenger numbers (+172,223), followed by the Indian subcontinent, particularly Pakistan, where there were double-digit increases out of Karachi and Islamabad. Emirates will increase to six flights daily to Karachi from August. In India, we will launch an A380 service to Mumbai and deploy larger aircraft on Delhi and Hyderabad. Elsewhere in Asia, Emirates' passenger network has extended into Taipei with flights beginning in February 2014. Jakarta, Singapore, and Thailand are amongst the markets where we have also been increasing capacity. As ever, our reach across six continents is backed by millions of dollars of investment in our products and services. Winning the Skytrax “World's Best Airline" award in 2013 does not come from complacency, and we fully realize the reputation we have to live up to. Overall, the world is tentatively recovering from the very tough years following the global financial crisis. Fuel remains an irritatingly high operating cost, and there are ongoing challenges with currency fluctuations. But as our business and brand becomes more global, connecting East and West via Dubai, we also further spread our risk. This has undoubtedly helped in more difficult periods.

How is the Emirates Group preparing to be part of the Expo 2020, and what will be the impact of such an event on the Group's operations?

The Emirates Group has and continues to play a significant role in Expo 2020. Emirates exists on the basis of connectivity and, in the last financial year, we carried 44.5 million passengers around the world. Emirates will help to bring millions of Expo visitors to Dubai in 2020, supporting the Expo theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future." With modern aircraft, such as our flagship A380, and numerous pioneering initiatives, Emirates is a shining example of the progress Expo gatherings have historically showcased. The airline is also representative of the rapid economic and infrastructural journey Dubai has undertaken. Our magnificent A380s are helping to spread the UAE'S Expo achievement globally with all 48 double-deckers dressed with the words “Expo 2020, Dubai UAE, Host City." These are immensely exciting times.

What does the inauguration of Al Maktoum International represent for Dubai?

Al Maktoum International at DWC in Jebel Ali represents a quantum leap for aviation in Dubai. When completed, we will have an airport offering twice the capacity of London Heathrow within a fully integrated aerotropolis. The airport has already been open to cargo flights since 2010 and passenger flights began in October 2013. Emirates' freighter operations shifted to DWC in mid-2014. The decision on whether Emirates moves its passenger operations to DWC is one for the Dubai government. The important point is that the infrastructure is being created to absorb the demand of Dubai's path to becoming the ultimate global hub.