GCAA Director General says signs are pointing to significant recovery and travel demand in 2H 2021

Published: Saturday, May 29, 2021

DUBAI: Signs are pointing to a significant air travel demand in the second half of 2021 and sustainable recovery in air operations, according to Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

In his welcome address at the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Forum and Global Airport Leaders Forum (GALF) co-located with the three-day Airport Show 2021 in Dubai, Al Suwaidi said: “I am confident that together we will continue our efforts to make 2021 to be a year of transition for sustainable recovery and growth.”

Today, despite the catastrophe and the vaccination rollout and increase in supply of vaccines globally more passengers are expected to return to travel and the UAE expects even more.

Al Suwaidi said the UAE was able to retain the supply chain of essential and non-essential goods to other nations. By June 2021 we expect passenger numbers to recover globally and to 49 per cent recovery of their 2019 level.

“We foresee only a 49 percent recovery—26 percent international and 66 percent for domestic. As against 4.5 billion travellers in 2019, only 1.8 billion passengers took to the skies last year. The coronavirus pandemic led to a 50 per cent drop in domestic passenger traffic globally and 74 per cent in international traffic in 2020,” the GCAA Director General said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UAE has immediately communicated with airports and airlines and formed several internal and national bodies to adjust and adopt safety certification to maintain an acceptable safety and security standards and support our industry, its personnel and passengers from the Covid-19 spread.

“On the aviation safety and security front we have adapted publishing and adopting an unprecedented facilities and provisions and techniques to ensure continuity of services to maintain safe operation of our aircraft, airports and air navigation infrastructure. From the time the total suspension of the non-essential operations was started in March 2020, we have started working and planning for the recovery during the peak of the pandemic,” Al Suwaidi noted.

Ismaeil Al Balooshi, Assistant Director General Aviation Safety Affairs, UAE GCAA, said the UAE community is back to normalcy thanks to an effective vaccination strategy.

“We are up for good news. We have reached its pre-pandemic level. Community is open but there is no complacency,” he said at the session titled ‘Air Traffic Management in the post-Covid era.’

“Retail and recreation is an indicator for community normalisation. Our recovery will be surging when other states will open up with the UAE, and we are all eyeing at normalcy for 2021. Countries have opened their borders, but with more entry conditions.  It is a hopeful situation towards recovery.”

Civil aviation sector is deeply impacted. However, we don’t have control over the public health measures and border control. We need to collaborate and exchange more at national, regional and international levels, with states and NGOs.”

On the effect of vaccine, he said the UAE at 80 percent vaccination rate. The vaccine is working and it has encouraging effect on lower death rate and infections rate, while the UAE has still maintained a high level of testing rates.

In 2019, the UAE contributed to around 2.2% (in top 30 countries) in terms of worldwide international flights while the UAE population was 0.1% of worldwide population in 2020, around 2.5%

The Dubai International Airport (DXB) retained its position as the No 1 for international passengers in for the sixth year, with annual traffic for 2019 reaching 86.4 million, 6 million more than airport ranking No.2.