Aviation: Abu Dhabi exploring airport development opportunities in Africa and Eastern Europe
Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) is exploring opportunities for consulting, developing and operating airports abroad, mainly in eastern Europe and Africa, as it looks to create alternative revenue streams.
Adac signed a non-binding preliminary agreement with Bucharest-based South Development Group (SDG) to discuss possibilities for managing and developing Romania’s international and regional airports, Bryan Thompson, chief executive of Adac, told reporters on Tuesday.
“We are working very closely with four or five other countries and airport groups on possibilities of doing something very similar to this,” he said at a media briefing in Abu Dhabi. “It’s about how we can generate new revenue streams, how we can foster broader international cooperation and how we can grow our business.”
The preliminary agreement with SDG marks the airport company’s first foray abroad. Adac, created in 2006 to spearhead Abu Dhabi’s aviation infrastructure development, currently manages and operates five airports in the emirate. Adac is also building the Midfield Terminal, the new hub for the UAE flag-carrier Etihad Airways at Abu Dhabi International Airport, with a capacity to handle 45 million passengers annually.
The Midfield Terminal is 97.6 per cent complete, Mr Thompson said, declining to provide an opening date.
“We are focusing right now on testing and commissioning … and operational readiness trials,” he said. “We expect more advanced trials towards the end of this year and early next year.”
The restructuring of Etihad Airways, which is now more focused on point-to-point operations, has not changed plans for the facility, he added.
Once the Midfield Terminal is completed, all current airline customers will be moved to the new facility. The current terminal, which houses the US pre-clearance immigration service, will continue operations. A decision will be made “in future” on the type of offerings from the exiting terminal but the “opportunities are endless,” Mr Thompson noted.
Airport passenger traffic in 2019 is estimated to reach 21.483 million in Abu Dhabi, compared to 21.6 million passengers the emirate handled last year as as a “strong” second half followed a slow start to the year, he said.
Asked about the 2019 forecast for air freight, Mr Thompson said the cargo market has “remained fairly stable” and the airport operator has not seen a major impact from developments such as the US-China trade war.
Airline customers at the Abu Dhabi hub have recorded average load factors of about 84 per cent, which is a “healthy” base from which to grow the network, he noted.
Etihad Airways’ low-cost joint venture with Air Arabia is set to begin operations by the second quarter of next year from Abu Dhabi, Mr Thompson said, reiterating earlier guidance from the airlines.
Abu Dhabi is looking to develop its aviation sector as part of the emirate’s broader plans to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.
ADAC’s comments came as Abu Dhabi hosts the two-day ACI Airport Exchange 2019 event tackling the industry’s biggest issues from climate change to technological innovations.