UAE aviation: A story of takeoffs and landings


By Shweta Jain, Senior Reporter

Dubai: Over the last four decades, the UAE has gained global prominence in the aviation industry with Emirates airline in the cockpit.

Dubai Airport
Dubai Airport

The carrier, which was established in 1985 with capital of a mere $10 million (Dh36.7 million), two aircraft and a small team of professionals, is on track to become the world’s largest wide-body carrier by 2015, according to management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group in a recent study.

Its home, Dubai International Airport, was also just starting out as a small base handling a handful of carriers. In 1969, Dubai International was ten years old and accommodated just nine airlines serving 20 destinations. Today, the airport is one of the world’s major hubs with 150 airlines flying to 220 cities.

The 1970s experienced many developments at Dubai airport, starting with a new three-storey terminal, a new control tower, additional taxiways, lengthening of the runway, extension of aprons and improved airfield lighting and landing instruments.

Today, there is not one but two airports serving Dubai, with the second to become the world’s largest airport once complete. Last June Dubai Airports opened the first phase of Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International airport for cargo, and passenger operations expected to follow next year.

Half-century of success

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said: “Dubai’s half-century of aviation success is the result of a number of factors. The emirate has emerged as a regional epicentre for trade, commerce and tourism, reinforced by the quality of its infrastructure, political stability and, of course, its progressive attitude towards the aviation sector.”

The UAE’s aviation industry reached new heights in November 2003 with the establishment of Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi.

Launched with a ceremonial flight from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, Etihad joined Emirates in reaching out to the world. The carrier now has more than 100 aircraft on order.

James Hogan, CEO of Etihad, said: “The UAE is a young and vibrant country that has captured the global imagination by demonstrating again and again that modern Arabia has so much to offer the world. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations to both the government and the people of the UAE. May the next 40 years be as successful as the last.”

In the same year the Arab world’s largest low cost carrier, Air Arabia, was founded. The Sharjah-based airline has gone on to become the Middle East’s first publicly listed airline via the Dubai Financial Market. More info