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Mideast air traffic woes to be resolved by 2020

Dubai: An end to the region’s air traffic congestion woes is in sight, Dubai’s top aviation official said on Monday at the second annual Aviation Safety Culture Summit in Dubai on Monday.

Mohammad Ahli, director-general of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), told the media that the region will have a solution by 2020.

The Aviation Safety Culture Summit brings together the leading officials to discuss safety and security issues impacting the industry.

Increasing air traffic congestion in the UAE, other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and beyond has long been a topic of discussion for the region’s burgeoning aviation industry.

Ahli said that while the emirates were working together, a higher body at a regional level was yet to be established.

Ahli said it was not just airlines in the GCC but also those in the wider Middle East & North Africa region, Iran, Pakistan and India that needed to play a role in easing air traffic congestion.

But it remains unclear where a higher body, which would at least include members from all six Gulf States, would be based. Dubai is currently one of the largest contributors to air traffic congestion with the growth of Emirates and flydubai. However, Ahli would not say if this justified the higher body being based in the emirate.

Dubai’s successful bid to host Expo 2020 will be an added pressure to find a solution in the near future with 25 million visitors expected to travel to emirate for the international event.

Beyond the expo, Qatar will host the Fifa World Cup in 2022, which is likely to direct more international passengers to the airspace above the Gulf.

Dubai International to be number 1

Ahli is confident that Dubai International will overtake London Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic next year.

In 2013 Dubai International recorded a 15.2 per cent rise in passenger traffic with more than 66 million travellers arriving, transiting and departing through the airport. London Heathrow, however, had 72.3 million passengers pass through the airport, a 3.4 per cent jump.

Ahli said that he expects at least 75 million passengers to travel through Dubai International in 2015, which is the airport’s current capacity and which will be expanded once again in the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, flydubai continued to deny that the airline had confirmed plans to permanently move from Dubai International to Al Maktoum International in Dubai World Central (DWC).

However, Ahli said that the Dubai-based carrier will be heading over to Dubai’s newest airport located in the emirate’s south.

Ahli’s remarks are in line with comments from Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), who last week said flydubai will move “in the next year.”