Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Sheikh Eng. Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation, Ras Al Khaimah (RAKDCA) & Chairman of RAK International Airport, on the role of the organization and the development of aviation in RAK.

HE Sheikh Eng. Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi
HE Sheikh Eng. Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi is Chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation, Ras Al Khaimah (RAKDCA), a position he has held since 1997. Other positions have include Member of the Board of Directors of the General Civil Aviation Authority and Head of Emiratization in the Civil Aviation Industry in the UAE. He has a degree in mining engineering from the University of Arizona and an EMBA from the American University of Sharjah.

What have been RAKDCA's aims and ambitions for the past few years?

RAKDCA is the governing body responsible for overlooking all aviation-related matters in the Emirate; therefore, our main focus is on the safety, security, and regulatory aspects of aviation. We also concentrate on maintaining the highest standards of quality under the guidance of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). We work with all of the RAK Government departments in order to create synergy for the promotion of the Emirate.

RAK Airport is planning to start construction on its expansion in 2017. What will the expansion entail?

RAK, under the vision and guidance of HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah and Member of the Supreme Council, continues to see strong growth in both the commercial and tourism sectors. The statistics reflect a huge air travel market existing in the four northern Emirates and Ras Al Khaimah is leading this growth with the largest market share, at over 44%. In line with this growth, RAK Airport is experiencing increased activity, therefore we will invest in its infrastructure development; including a new cargo terminal, passenger terminals, duty free shopping, corporate aviation areas, and security facilities to meet our customers' needs. We want to build six new aircraft gates, increase the number of check-in counters by 70%, and expand the retail space by at least 40%. The expansion projects follow a 26% increase in aircraft movements of scheduled flights in 2015. Furthermore, cargo business at the airport grew 51% in 2015, while passenger traffic increased by 17% over 2014. We believe there are strong business opportunities and prospective routes between Ras Al Khaimah and several overseas destinations with promising loads and yields.

RAK Airport is expanding its routes through new airlines. What prospective airlines will fly from RAK?

At the moment, Air Arabia is using RAK International as a hub, and it has increased its flight frequencies to the 10 destinations it serves from the Emirate. Air Arabia connects Ras Al Khaimah to the rest of the world on short to medium haul routes. Moreover, it is also planning new routes from RAK International in 2016 across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. New charter operations also started from Germany, Poland, Latvia, and Russia in 2015. RAK International also signed new deals for maintenance, repair and overhaul as well as aircraft decommissioning during 2015. In terms of new airlines, Qatar Airways started its operations in February 2016, and with this we intend to attract more tourists and connect the Emirate to long-haul destinations. Finally, Air India Express is the latest in the growing number of carriers to be operating from RAK International Airport to India. This is a massive service to the growing numbers of Indians residing in RAK.

What does the future hold for RAK's aviation industry?

As we see unprecedented growth, the challenges of providing secure and safe skies will be our highest priority at RAKDCA. The aviation markets in the UAE and around the world are innovating constantly, and we are preparing ourselves to welcome operators who demand the very best in service, safety, and security. In conjunction with Air Arabia we are establishing a regional market that has now gone on to international markets with the addition of Qatar Airways. This will promote other carriers to base their operations out of RAK Airport, as we offer convenient, cost effective, and efficient solutions without any time delays. RAKDCA is committed to providing safety and security to all these carriers as this is their prime objective. Not only that, we are committed to partner with tour operators and hotels in the region to welcome tourists from around the world. We have provided services to charter companies with special rates and coordinated with hotels in RAK to provide extremely competitive rates for crew and passengers. HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of RAK and Member of the Supreme Council, has provided exceptional leadership, vision, and clarity to action the development in and around RAK. This has been further complimented by the dynamic and young leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of the Emirate of RAK. His Highness the Crown Prince has catapulted the growth and development factors in and around RAK by focusing on state-of-the-art technology for the aviation sector, service industry, e-government, and overall ease and comfort for the visitors to this great Emirate. As the operators grow, we will see more hotels, resident hotels, shopping malls, government departments, free zone activity, and many other elements bringing growth and forging an emirate of choice in the process. We are geared to be considered among the best cities in the world and look forward to making our great nation proud.