John Conway, Divisional Senior Vice President – UAE Airport Operations at dnata, tells Airside that the ground services provider is continuing to scale up its operations in its home emirate.
Q. YOU WERE ANTICIPATING A BUSY SUMMER; DID IT TURN OUT TO BE AS BUSY AS EXPECTED?
A. The short answer is yes. It’s a little tricky to make direct comparisons with last year, as we were on single runway operations for nearly three months during the summer, but it’s quite clear that passenger numbers are inexorably climbing. Based on what we saw over the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 80 million passengers traveling through Dubai International Airport (DXB) this year.
Q. WHAT PARTICULAR CHALLENGES HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME AIRSIDE IN THE FACE OF THE INCREASING WORKLOAD
A. As the airport gets busier and busier, peak time slots are simply unavailable, so the ‘gaps’ when we can regroup/recover after any disruption (such as that caused by poor weather, air traffic control delays and so on) are gradually becoming smaller and smaller. Unlike many other major international airports, DXB and indeed Al Maktoum International (DWC) are 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operations with no night-time curfew. This is good, from an overall airport capacity perspective, but can also be challenging for the ground handler.
The airside environment at DXB is extremely busy and we have worked around major construction and upgrade projects designed to deliver much-needed additional airfield capacity. We focus on technology as much as we can – including vehicle telematics, personal digital assistants (PDAs) for operational staff, and real-time control of resource to dynamically manage the operation. As we get even more busy, we will move to more zoning of GSE and people to reduce airside movement.
Q. HAS THE OPENING OF AL-MAKTOUM REPRESENTED A BIG CHANGE TO YOUR DUBAI OPERATIONS?
A. Al-Maktoum has a heavy cargo programme, with all freighters having operated from DWC for some time now. The integrators are the only all-cargo aircraft operators now remaining at DXB and dnata provides ground handling at both airports. The passenger business at DWC has been slower to get going, although the recent news that flydubai will commence scheduled operations there, with effect from 25 October 2015, could well see an acceleration of growth.
Plans have been approved to expand the existing passenger terminal to deliver capacity in excess of 20 million passengers per annum, so we fully expect to be busy at both airports in the not-too-distant future.
Operationally dnata has separate management teams for each airport but, where possible, we support DWC from DXB. GSE repair and maintenance, for example, is managed from DXB with satellite facilities at DWC. Our resource management system, including Real Time Control, is handled from DXB.
Q. LOOKING FORWARD, WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THIS WINTER AND FOR 2016?
A. The coming winter season sees the continued scheduled carrier growth we have come to expect, but with the addition of seasonal scheduled and charter flights, many at DWC. The Airside Operations team is gearing up for the usual pre-holiday season hive of activity, with enhancements to baggage handling systems and the addition of new GSE and staff. Additional contact stand parking, at peak times, is non-existent – so we are also increasing our bussing capability and have recently taken delivery of seven new passenger buses, with more to come.
November will see the introduction of the brand-new Emirates A380 2-class aircraft with 615 seats. Depending on the route, we could see nearly 1,000 bags arriving in Dubai, with up to 80% transferring onto multiple connecting flights dotted all over the airfield. As we always say… it’s never dull!
Q. WILL WE SEE YET MORE GROWTH OF THE AVIATION SECTOR IN DUBAI, AND WHAT IMPLICATIONS DOES THIS HAVE FOR YOUR HOME-BASED OPERATIONS?
A. The growth will not stop! We are seeing activity levels now that we didn’t expect to see until the end of the decade. Emirates has aircraft orders in excess of 250 and flydubai nearly 100, so I fully expect DXB and DWC to simply get busier and busier. It should also be remembered that the international airline community loves flying to Dubai.
dnata handles over 100 of the world’s airlines at DXB/DWC, flying to 260 destinations. DXB will, within a few years, even with 24×7 operations, become ‘full’ and DWC is quite clearly the future, with advanced plans already in place for the next phase of major development. The new airport will be state-of-the-art and we are working very closely with other stakeholders to ensure that a facility is delivered which is fully integrated with ground transportation links, is customer-centric and is both technologically and environmentally best-in-class.