With their spirits sky high about the multi-billion dollar airports expansion programme, the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are increasingly exploring the airport leadership challenges and capacity building in their endeavor to solidify the region’s future position on the world aviation map.
Several airports, facing challenging times and tougher competition, are looking at fundamentally changing the way they do business and breed new leaders as they prepare for a massive growth cycle.
The massive increase in the volume of passengers will enhance the challenges for airport leaders as they strive to offer the highest quality of services in every aspect of airport operations.
Aviation experts who will be participating in the 13th edition of the Airport Show and the debut Global Airport Leaders’ Forum (GALF) in Dubai in May, have underscored the imperative need for launching airport leadership development programmes and capacity building initiatives to meet the rapidly changing requirements of the commercially-run airports.
Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman, Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said: “There remains a shortage in professional manpower because of the pace of development that we are witnessing, and we are filling these positions with foreign expertise. Nonetheless, I believe the region has a sufficient number of aviation professionals to fill top-level positions, although I am not sure how long we will be able to sustain this given the rapid growth and development of the aviation sector.”
He said: “Intelligent leadership is a crucial factor that will enable us to achieve our long-term goals and vision. We need to maintain a pool of leaders who fully understand and are competent in managing smart technologies that we have implemented to effectively and efficiently run our airports. We therefore need to nurture leaders who are capable of maintaining our competitive advantages with regards to operating a genuinely smart airport.”
He said the UAE has done remarkably well in creating more opportunities for UAE nationals to be employed in the aviation sector. The strong growth of Emirates Airline, for instance, resulted in widespread recruitment of Emiratis across different disciplines. Moreover, Dubai Airports and Dubai Aviation City Corporation were equally committed to expanding the Emiratisation programme. The aviation sector, which now accounts for around 28 per cent of the national GDP, will certainly have a huge impact in driving the Emiratisation programme. The aviation leadership in the UAE has been very progressive, very open minded and really rising up to the challenge.
Khalifa said there was an urgent need to strengthen the human resource development initiatives in the aviation sector and we need to take advantage of both local and foreign expertise to cope with the industry’s rapid growth. Moreover, we need to build more local institutions that provide specialised aviation training.
Leading Arab world aviation expert, George Hannouche, whose company, Bayanat Airports, is an exhibitor at the show, said: “The region is seeing game-changing developments in the airports sector while the GCC airlines work their way to take on the world competition; one crucial issue is human asset management and leadership succession. A good leadership is of prime importance in the success of a profitable and efficiently run airport. The future of our air transport system depends on the confident and qualified leaders who run our airports.”
During the session ‘Investing in Capacity Building to Develop Airport Leaders’, the forum will discuss how airport management can grow and develop at the same speed as the infrastructure through effective human capital strategy, leadership development initiatives and succession planning and investment in university development programmes.
The forum will focus on the local market, with the aim to provide regional airport management with an opportunity to highlight skill challenges and shortages and find tangible solutions in order to develop a pool of highly-skilled Arab professionals.
Aws Al Khanjari, General Manager, Gulf Centre for Aviation Studies and member of GALF Advisory Board, said one of the important qualities of a leader was to delegate powers to other competent colleagues and thereby build a team which will guarantee enhanced profitability and performance for an organisation based on efficient and effective leadership.
He said:"The forum presents a unique opportunity for those involved in the management of airports in the UAE and the region, to identify the best practices in leadership, utilizing the perspectives of international experts who have long been engaged in the management of airports.”
Khanjari said the massive airport expansion in the UAE calls for creating a vast pool of leaders to run the huge operations handling close to 85 million passengers a year. According to an Oxford Economics report, he said, the aviation sector supports 224,000 jobs in the UAE, including 141,000 jobs directly supported by the aviation sector, and will provide more than 400,000 new jobs in various disciples directly and indirectly in the next 20 years.
Winston Thomas, CEO of Pembrey Airport, UK, said locating skilled personnel with experience was among the challenges that the regional airports face in terms of leadership development and capacity building of human assets and it was very important to have SMART leadership at the airports’ helm of affairs.
Winston, who will be speaking at GALF, said the airports and airlines in the UAE and GCC are in an ideal position to implement an airport leadership development programme.
The forum fulfills the need for a global platform where airport leaders can debate issues of common interest. The GCC airports are in a massive expansion mode to cope with the anticipated demand. In 2013, the UAE airports are due to handle over 85 million passengers, while the Middle East airports will handle 400 million passengers a year by 2020.
According to an Oxford Economics study, the Middle East region has 1029 aircraft in service, operated by 65 airlines from 70 commercial airports. The GCC region has 36 airports, including eight in the UAE.
The 1st Global Airport Leaders’ Forum (GALF), alongside the iconic Airport Show, is scheduled to bring global pioneers and pacesetters of the airports industry to Dubai to share their professional insights, practical experiences and future perspectives on a wide spectrum of issues and challenges confronting the industry. GALF will be held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC).
It has been designed as a much-needed knowledge-sharing platform for C-Level leaders, managing directors, presidents, vice presidents, executive directors, and heads of departments (Finance, Operations, Planning and Strategy) from airports, airlines, civil aviation authorities and regulators among others.
A Steering Committee, chaired by H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, is in place with heads of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Airports and Emirates Airlines, dnata, Dubai World Trade Centre and Reed Exhibitions, as its members.
One of the highlights of the forum will be the creation of a CEO Vision for Airport 2050 study based on an interactive voting programme.