UAE pushing ‘open skies’ agreement with China

Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths is confident Dubai will achieve its target of nearly 90 million passengers for 2017.

DUBAI – The Asia Pacific Region stands to benefit much if and when Abu Dhabi’s ‘open skies’ agreement with China pushes through.

The chief executive of Dubai Airports Company which oversees Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International (DWC) is pushing the proposal with China to fuel future growth of passengers flying via Dubai from the Asia Pacific Region.

“The key thing with China is to get the Chinese government to agree that opening up the domestic [aviation] market for more international operations is going to be a very positive thing for them,” said Paul Griffiths.

The progress has so far been slow on persuading the Asian superpower to adopt such a policy, added Griffiths.

Dubai Airports expects to reach its target of just under 90 million passengers for 2017, Mr Griffiths said during an interview at Dubai Airshow. He added that a significant portion of longer-term growth will be driven by China and South East Asian markets.

“If you look to 2024, there’s a projected increase of 1.3 billion passenger journeys from South East Asia, China, all those areas,” he said. “This is where the real fuel for passenger growth is going to come from and we are very excited about this possibility because Dubai is at the heart of that. We are so well positioned geographically to be able to service that market.”

The UAE’s introduction last year of a visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese tourists will continue to facilitate growth in Chinese arrivals, but an open skies agreement is the key to unlocking the potential of that market.

Griffiths stressed that if China would declare an open skies agreement, the UAE and the rest of the Asia Pacific region would also be in much better shape.

Mr Griffiths said when Dubai first started its journey to becoming an aviation hub, open skies agreements with nations were “a good way for us to develop”. But he said that while talks on the matter had taken place between the UAE and Chinese governments, they had so far failed to bear fruit.