Business & Finance Print 2023-11-16

Air fares will rise as sector aims for sustainability: Dubai Airports CEO

  • Says 'sustainability has to be at the very heart of everything we do, even if that means that air fares have to rise'
Published November 16, 2023

As Dubai gears up to host COP28, one of the most significant climate change conferences in the world, the CEO of the city’s airport authority says it takes the issue very seriously.

As an airport that serves 250 destinations from 104 countries with 91 international airlines, “we are doing several things,” Paul Griffiths, chief of Dubai Airports (DA), told Business Recorder in an exclusive interview.

“We’re increasing our photovoltaic generating capacity to 43MW. On our rooftops, we are storing chilled water as a source of energy, which is then being used at night when we don’t have solar power available.”

Dubai Airports - which manages Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International (DWC) - is also converting its ground transportation to battery powered electric vehicles, and making sure it doesn’t send any waste to landfills.

“We’re not using single use plastics within the airport, and we are processing all of our cooking oil into biofuels,” said Griffiths.

Air travel often comes under scrutiny for its carbon footprint - some estimates say aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon emissions.

Griffiths says the idea with embracing sustainability is to “make a dramatic reduction in the total carbon footprint of the airport. And that’s what I’d be advising other airports around the world to do, so we can move forward together towards a sustainable future for the whole industry.”

And if the industry is truly to get on board with going green, then it, along with passengers, will have to accept that ticket prices will go up.

“Sustainability has to be at the very heart of everything we do, even if that means that air fares have to rise. We have to embed the costs of responsible mobility in the supply chain of every mode of transport.”

When asked by how much flight tickets could increase, Griffiths said “it’s really difficult to project because obviously it depends on the level of investment. But I think the more that’s invested the higher the price.”

However, “ultimately if that summits over a period of time and we get going on it, then hopefully that won’t mean a rise significantly above the rates of inflation across the world.”

He says when consumers are demanding air travel to be more sustainable and are actually prepared to pay for it, “then we need industry to invest very heavily in alternative technologies so that we can reduce or eliminate our dependance on hydrocarbon fueled fuels, both on the ground and in the air.”

And if this is to work, then it will require government mandates “so we have a level playing field across the world.”

“Much like aviation safety has been covered by government mandates around the world. We’ve got to do the same thing. The good thing is I think people are very focused on it.”

He went on to say that “the sustainability initiatives that we’re embracing are very significant and very broad. What we all have to do is decarbonize the world and make it sustainable in the fastest possible way.”

“We believe we’re playing our part in COP28, and we’ve got some stories and some initiatives that we’ll be able to reveal during the conference, which will be able to show that we’re at the forefront of sustainability in airports.”

Expansion plans

A DA report published Wednesday revealed that with 8.9 million passengers in the first nine months of the year, India was DXB’s top country destination in terms of traffic volume, followed by Saudi Arabia with 4.8 million passengers, the UK (4.4 million passengers) and Pakistan with 3.1 million passengers.

The report predicted that annual passenger traffic at DXB in 2023 will reach 86.8 million – surpassing 2019 pre-pandemic traffic.

To accommodate this growth, DA plans to expand infrastructure capacity while enhancing operational efficiency. It wants to expand DXB’s capacity from 100 million passengers to 120 million via technology, expansion and refurbishment of existing infrastructures and more efficient use of space and resources.

“We’re having to optimize all of our capacity across the two airports,” Griffiths told Business Recorder.

“We’re investing in new infrastructure and upgrading our technology to make absolutely sure that we’re able to improve the throughput.”

“The idea is that what we want to do is double the capacity of the airport, but we don’t have the space to build new terminals. If you double the throughput rate, you’ve doubled the capacity without the cost and expense of building anything.”

Griffiths was speaking from the Dubai Airshow, which he says reflects the fact that MENA “is one of the parts of the world where the aviation and travel and tourism industry has got a massive potential for further growth”.

He says this is highlighted in the orders that have been placed at the show - Emirates and flydubai placed more than $50 billion of Boeing jet orders - as well as in the visitor numbers that have attended - more than 50,000 on day one.

“People are taking this area of the world seriously, which is a very good thing,” said Griffiths.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Nur Khan Nov 17, 2023 12:27pm
Pure nuisance and profit extraction under the garb of sustainability, those who support sustainability should travel by rail rather than patronizing airlines who are directly responsible for carbon and noise emissions.
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