With no let-up expected in Emirates Airline’s double-digit capacity growth, Tim Clark knows that to achieve its ultimate success the development of Dubai’s aviation infrastructure, both in the air and on the ground, must shadow the airline’s expansion. Central to this is the establishment of the hub succession plan, expected to see the airline’s transition from the current international airport to Dubai World Central (DWC) in about 15 years.
The plan is for DWC – which opened last year – to be developed to enable Emirates to move over in one go around 2025. In the meantime, its current home must also expand to cater for the airline’s growth.
“By that time, we could have in excess of 300 aircraft, and the airport will need to handle a total of 150 million passengers because if we move, then all the airlines will want to move,” says Clark. “So what does that mean for the new airport? It needs to be two and half to three times the size of Heathrow today. So work must start now if it is to be ready in 2025. Personally, I believe it will be 2030 [when Emirates moves].”
Clark points out “there is no point in doing any of this unless we sort out the air traffic management. Airspace issues are the weak link in the chain and have to be sorted and, at the moment, it’s not clear how that will evolve to deal with something of that scale.”
Meanwhile, Clark is confident the existing airport can be adapted to accommodate the vast number and size of airliners Emirates is committed to take in the coming years. “We’re not curfewed, and we have the systems and processes that we believe can get the job done,” he says.
Dubai International Airport’s “SP2020” plan has been given the nod by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, which will enable capacity to rise from 60 million to 90 million passengers by 2018.
“Funding is the issue as although some will be provided by the Investment Corporation of Dubai – of which Emirates is a part – it will still need debt support,” says Clark. “However, by monetising the cash flows coming out of the new facilities, for example from Dubai Duty Free, we can get debt providers to step up and give us the money we need.”