Paul Griffiths, CEO Dubai Airports – Keynote interview
Last month at World Aviation Festival the CEO Dubai Airports joined Ben Thompson for an interview. In just 15-minutes, Paul Griffiths answered questions on a wide range of topics in depth. Thought-provoking, relevant, and perceptive this interview with the Dubai Airports CEO is packed with insight.
Firstly, the pair discuss Dubai’s rapid pandemic recovery and the factor which Paul attributes to their success. The positive changes that emerged from the adversities of COVID-19 are also identified, looking especially at the pandemic as a catalyst for the adoption of biometric technology. This interview covers significant ground discussing a range of themes from the importance of aviation to the challenges of being a hub.
Sean Donohue, CEO DFW Airport Board’s interview is mentioned in this interview, watch this here.
Technology and reaching net-zero by 2050. An interview with Yann Cabaret, CEO SITA FOR AIRCRAFT
At the World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam, Yann Cabaret CEO SITA FOR AIRCRAFT talked about sustainability and technology in this five-minute interview.
SITA FOR AIRCRAFT has “a focus on enabling safe, efficient and sustainable aircraft operations, providing systems, data, and applications to customers across the world.”
The interview’s discussion was constructed around these three questions:
What would you say the most important factors will be for reaching the net zero by 2050 target?
Can you name any collaborations or partnerships within the industry which have been particularly effective with regards to sustainability?
Which exciting upcoming trends will we be seeing surrounding technology in the next five years?
The scope of the interview was purposely reduced to a maximum of five years into the future. This allowed the discussion to be predominantly centred around existing technology and the steps that must be taken right now. Although looking forward is important, this must not detract from progress that can be made today.
Yann highlighted this in the interview saying:
“We aren’t waiting for someone to invent something huge that doesn’t exist. There is technology today, let’s make sure we use it properly.”
That said, Yann pointed out there are many developments which will play a significant role in the push for sustainability that have not yet come to fruition.
With regards to how sustainability could be achieved, Yann suggested a diverse array of initiatives would be required, including but not limited to:
The message from the SITA FOR AIRCRAFT CEO was inspiring, emphasising the measures that can and should be taken right now to “leverage what exists today.”
One of the ways SITA’s technology has been used to improve aircraft sustainability is through SITA OptiClimb® technology. This optimisation technology can save up to five per-cent of fuel per trip. Calculations estimate an annual reduction of carbon emissions by 5.6 million tons if every airline used this SITA technology. Singapore Airlines recently deployed this technology, read more here.
Keynote CEO panel: As airports rescale following the pandemic, how can they rebuild to a smarter future whilst prioritising innovation and sustainability?
This 45-minute panel was hosted at the World Aviation Festival in October. Moderated by BBC Journalist Ben Thompson, the discussion involved these prominent leaders from the airport industry:
Sean Donohue, CEO DFW Airport Board
Julia Simpson, President and CEO WTTC
Julie Shainock, Global Leader Travel and Transportation Industry, Microsoft
Paul Griffiths, CEO Dubai Airports
Gert-Jan de Graaff, CEO Brisbane Airport
Ben expertly moderated with the session covering the current state of the industry as well as expectations for the near and distant future.
One of the topics discussed in depth was the issue of passenger confidence and how to increase predictability to enhance passenger experience. Here, the panel had differing opinions on the severity of the problem however they offered the same broad solution. Developing from this topic the panel explored data and how real time data is currently shared with passengers as well as plans for the next few years.
Inevitably, technology was woven into the entirety of the discourse. When explicitly addressing technology, the conversation explored how to “do more with less” to prevent spending on technology from draining companies. The more distant future was also explored alongside a moment of introspection, looking at how tech has changed lives in unexpected ways.
The final predominant theme was sustainability. Here the panel explained how they interpret sustainability and how to grow sustainably. There was discussion on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and Hydrogen.
In the 45-minutes, the panellists also touched upon advice for start-ups to help get noticed, eVTOL aircrafts, security technology, digital twins, the metaverse, smart buildings, and more.
2022 FIFA World Cup has airports preparing for 1.7 million visitors
The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off on Sunday, and all eyes are on Qatar. With a population of 3 million and a total geographic area of approximately 11,586 km², the host nation is the smallest country in this year’s World Cup. Across the course of the tournament, Qatar is expected to receive upwards of 1.7 million visitors with the majority of fans arriving by air. How are the host and neighbouring countries planning to accommodate this?
Hamad International Airport (HIA) and Doha International Airport have been intensely preparing for the World Cup. The airports are anticipating approximately 200,000 people a day and the air traffic in both airports has reached an estimated 90 take-offs and landing per hour.
HIA underwent a series of expansion projects to increase the facility’s overall capacity from 29 million to 58 million passengers per annum Badr Al-Meer, airport chief operating officer, confirmed to Qatar News Agency (QNA). The projects included the “provision of 34 aircraft parking spaces on an area of 250,000 square meters.”
The airport also has a new transfer hall on concourse C, which is expected to reduce waiting times at through efficient security and customer service.
To alleviate some of the pressure on HIA, Doha International Airport has been reopened to passenger airlines. It is estimated that Doha International will receive approximately 12 per-cent of all flights to/from Qatar during the World Cup. Before September 2022, the airport had been closed to passenger airlines for eight years.
Flag carrier, Qatar Airways will also be providing Passenger Overflow spaces outside the airports for free use. The area will offer storage space for luggage as well as football festivities and live entertainment for fans.
Despite the extensive preparation, Qatar alone does not have the capacity to accommodate expected number of fans. Instead, people have been encouraged to stay in neighbouring states with daily shuttle services available. Consequently, Doha is expecting 20,000 daily visitors from the gulf to Doha. One key state offering this service is Dubai.
120 shuttle flights will fly in and out of Dubai World Central (DWC) airport daily during the course of the tournament. This is set to increase DWC’s passenger traffic three-fold. According to Gulf News, to accommodate these forecast passengers, the airport has:
A dedicated front-line team to facilitate efficient processing at every service touchpoint, ensuring a consistently smooth experience and on-time departures.
More than 60 check-in counters.
21 boarding gates.
60 passport control counters (departures and arrivals).
10 smart gates.
4 baggage belts on arrivals.
Discussing the pressure that the World Cup will bring, Paul Griffiths, CEO Dubai Airports said:
“A spike in demand of this magnitude would pose a challenge for any airport, but we have had some recent practice. In May-June this year, we orchestrated the almost flawless temporary relocation of more than 1,000 flights a week from Dubai International (DXB) to DWC for the 45-day long DXB northern runway rehabilitation project, while managing an exceptionally strong recovery throughout.”
Discussing sustainability with the President of Shell Aviation, Jan Toschka
At the World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam, I sat down with Jan Toschka, President of Shell Aviation to discuss sustainability.
Different ways the sustainability discussion has shifted in recent times.
How seriously the industry is taking the need to decarbonise.
Current barriers to the broader use and production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
Shell’s new blockchain powered book-and-claim solution Avelia, and how it will increase the production of SAF.
The importance of collaboration for meeting sustainability needs.
The industry has set its sights on SAF as one of the keys levers to decarbonise aviation. Defined as “renewable or waste-driven aviation fuels that meets sustainability criteria,” SAF has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by 80 per-cent when used in neat form.
Through replacing traditional jet fuel with SAF, the industry can hope to significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Consequently, SAF plays a large role in many airlines’ sustainability roadmaps. However, right now this costs two to eight times more than traditional, carbon emission heavy, jet fuel.
This cost creates a chicken and egg problem that Jan explains in the interview. On one side, airlines struggle to make commitments and on the other, fuel providers are lacking the strong demand signal to invest at scale and increase production, which in turn dampens demand because of SAF’s price premium. The Air Transport Action Group estimates that up to $1.45 trillion worth of investment over the next 30 years will be needed for scaling up production. During the interview, Jan discusses this dilemma and explores what steps are needed to overcome this to ensure there is enough SAF to satisfy demand.
One of Shell’s priorities is collaboration across the value chain to unlock demand in order to de-risk investment and grow confidence for SAF production and use. Shell has made headlines in the recent months – for example, in August 2022, Shell signed a landmark memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Lufthansa over a potential purchase agreement which could deliver up to 1.8 million metric tonnes of SAF over a seven-year period, starting 2024. When considering the ‘chicken and egg’ problem, MoUs like this one play an important role in helping to gain confidence that’s needed to scale up SAF production.
As a concentrated segment that also needs to decarbonise, business travel is uniquely positioned to play a role in scaling SAF demand. Jan explained how their blockchain powered book-and-claim solution Avelia is helping to decarbonise business travel, giving corporations the ability to buy SAF and receive its environmental benefits regardless of their geographic location.
Finally, the importance of collaboration was emphasised as it becomes increasingly apparent that airlines, corporates, governments, and suppliers must all work together to ensure the industry can make the required shift to sustainability.
“Two weeks of intensive diplomacy” by over 2,500 delegates from 184 States and 57 organisations has concluded in October 2022. The culmination? The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) pledge to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
The ICAO is formed of 193 countries and was created in 1944 as a specialised agency of the United Nations to “support their diplomacy on international air transport matters.”
The previous climate goal set by the ICAO in 2010 committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 2% annual improvement in fuel efficiency through 2050. This latest 2022 commitment sits in alignment with fellow industry groups, pledging to universally work towards the net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This follows suit with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) who pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 in 2021.
Although the pledge was unanimous, China, Russia, and Eritrea voiced concern surrounding the feasibility of the goal and argued that developed countries should provide financial support to developing nations who are still growing their aviation markets. This highlights an interesting question surrounding whether the burden should be placed equally across all countries internationally, or whether those who have had the opportunity to benefit greatly from their aviation markets should shoulder more of the global burden.
It also raises more questions surrounding the methods that will be necessary to achieve the net-zero target. The IATA guidance suggests that SAF could contribute around sixty-five per-cent of the reduction in emissions required.
The ICAO stated:
The “aspirational” pledge will be achieved through “the accelerated adoption of new and innovation aircraft technologies, streamlined flight operations, and the increased production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).”
Furthermore, Salvatore Sciaccitano President of the ICAO Council said:
The adoption of the long term goal “will contribute importantly to the green innovation and implementation momentum which must be accelerated over the coming decades to ultimately achieve emissions free powered flight.”
Although the net-zero by 2050 pledge aligns with expectations, it remains an affirmation of the aviation industry’s commitment to reduce their impact on the climate.
What is Holding Young People Back From Joining the Aviation Industry?
The industry is currently experiencing crippling staff shortages. Now more than ever, the need to attract young, new talent is evident. However, young people are no longer flocking for jobs in the industry. Why?
Disruption with flights, airports, and baggage have dominated newspaper headlines lately. One factor underpinning all of this is staff shortages.
As demand for flights returns and then some with revenge travel, the aviation industry is being held back by crippling labour shortages. During the pandemic, aviation lost 2.3 million jobs globally. As people returned back to work there has been a lack of willingness for staff to return to the industry. This is for a multitude of reasons including pay, movement to other sectors, changes in personal circumstances and many more.
It is important to understand, the pandemic only accelerated the staffing crisis. These problems pre-dated 2019 with the industry identifying a looming staff shortage before the virus.
Given the current situation, it is crucial that the industry attracts young, new talent.
However, at the moment people are not rushing for jobs in aviation. There are many reasons behind this, but three of the most prominent ones are perceived problems relating to diversity, industry instability, and climate conscience.
In August 2021, the UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) investigated the perception that young adults and adolescents have of the aviation industry. This aimed to break down the lack of new talent entering the industry.
One predominant theme was a concern about a lack of ethnic, gender, and social diversity in aviation. The UK report found that 41% of those surveyed were negatively influenced by the perceived lack of diversity, this number was even higher among BAME adolescents and young adults.
The industry has a long-standing reputation in Europe and the USA for being male and white dominated. Research suggested that women and people of colour were less likely to apply for jobs within the industry.
The report also revealed a belief that you needed to already have money to pursue a career in aviation, especially a career as a pilot. A respondent in the BAME 16-24 year old group said, “how do people become pilots? You need to be quite wealthy.”
There is also a level of perceived instability within the industry. During the pandemic, the aviation industry was forced to make high levels of redundancies. Having witnessed this, there are fears that young people will now be reluctant to train for or opt into a career in aviation.
With young talent looking towards the future, the aviation industry no longer has the same credibility for stability. The fear of airlines going out of business or more pandemics disrupting working life seem to be making young talent think twice before pursuing a career in the industry.
In a time of growing awareness about the environmental impact of industries, aviation’s carbon footprint is withholding people. The UK DfT research showed that this was a particularly influential factor for women and LGBTQI+ individuals.
Although the industry is working hard to meet sustainability targets and integrating new technologies to reduce environmental damage, the public perception continues to associate aviation with carbon emissions.
Gen Z, currently aged between 25 and 10, have been dubbed “champions of the climate cause.” The current perception of the aviation industry as incompatible with a climate conscience appears to contribute to the problem of attracting young, new talent to the industry.
In order to attract fresh talent from the younger generations into the industry, the perceptions of the industry need to be addressed.
At this year’s World Aviation Festival a Talent & Diversity Summit is being held, with a panel discussing the question, “How can we overcome negative industry perceptions around areas such as industry stability and sustainability to attract young and diverse talent for the future?”
Russia and Ukraine have been at war since February and the effects of this conflict have been felt internationally. Within the aviation industry, the rise in fuel prices and the closure of Russian airspace have had tangible effects especially for Finnair.
The effects of the war on Finnair routes
Russia’s airspace has been closed to EU members since February. This closure is a direct result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict which saw the UK, USA, Canada, and the EU close their own airspaces to Russian aircrafts in solidarity with Ukraine.
Finnair, flag carrier of Finland, has been particularly impacted by the closure of Russia’s airspace. The airline’s strategy has for a long time been centred around a short route connecting Europe and Asia.
Developments in the political situation forced the airline to suspend some services and re-route others. The Finnair COO explained that the effects were “most prominent on flights to Japan and South Korea, where the flight time was up to 40 per cent longer when avoiding Russian airspace.” Consequently, over the summer the suspended services were the ones to Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.
The airline’s response
The elongated routes “weaken[ed] the profitability of the company” and Finnair has been forced to pivot westward. The airline has opted for “a geographically more balanced network,” increasing their routes to Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and North America.
This shift comes around the same time that Finnair announced their “long-term strategic cooperation” with Qatar Airways. From November the airlines, both part of the Oneworld airline alliance, will cooperate with flights between Doha, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. The flights to Doha will be sold and marketed by both Finnair and Qatar Airways.
Finnair is at the beginning of a period of “significant structural renewal” in response to the struggles of the past few years. On top of rerouting and strengthening their strategic partnerships, the airline has also announced a dramatic cost-reduction plan.
A CEO panel will be discussing how the re-writing of route maps will affect the overall competitive landscape of the industry at this year’s World Aviation Festival. This discussion will occur between Willie Walsh – IATA CEO, Alan Joyce – Qantas CEO, Marjan Rintel – KLM CEO, Annette Mann – Austrian Airlines CEO, and Sir Tim Clark – Emirates President.
“How Would You Say The Event Helps Drive Innovation in The Industry?”
As Paul van Alfen said in our discussion, “a lot of lightbulbs will go off.” But how exactly does the World Aviation Festival help to drive forward innovation in the industry?
In a previous post, I detailed these industry experts’ role in our agenda and found out what they are most looking forward to at this year’s WAF. Here, I went into further detail trying to understand what exactly it is about the event that helps to drive innovation in the industry.
Jerry Angrave – “There’s real honesty”
Jerry noted in particular the honesty with which people discuss the direction of the industry. Combining this honesty with “a really good spirit of collaboration,” very senior speakers, and thriving start-ups the event facilitates tangible developments in the industry.
Iztok Franko – “Taking time to think a little bit outside of the box”
Iztok pointed out that in our busy lives, and in these tumultuous times, it is hard to find time to think out of the box. He described the event as carving out some much needed time for people to leave their offices and meet new people, sharing ideas that people will take back to their areas of the industry.
Harald Deprosse – “It’s all there, it’s all there”
Harald specifically highlighted the “amazing” agenda bringing people from all over to a single location. However, he went on to describe the real fruit of the event coming from meeting people in between the sessions and the discussions that grow from there.
Paul van Alfen – “By bringing people together”
Paul described WAF as a meeting place for members across the spectrum of the aviation community. The event facilitates a huge exchange of ideas and “discussing the bigger picture” to produce exciting new possibilities.
The event is the perfect time for a huge variety of members of the aviation community to gather together. Through talks, networking, and candour the common problems the industry faces are explored and creative solutions are reached.
“What Are You Looking Forward to at This Year’s World Aviation Festival?”
In advance of the upcoming World Aviation Festival, I had a chat with a few of the experts who will be moderating our sessions.
I was joined online by Paul van Alfen, Harald Deprosse, Jerry Angrave, and Iztok Franko to discuss a little about what they were looking forward to this year. These are just a few of the impressive experts we have lined up as moderators for the event in October.
One overwhelming theme across these discussions was everyone’s excitement to get back to a full-scale, in person event. It will have been years since the last “normal” event and having everyone back in the same room has got everyone buzzing for Amsterdam.
New Technologies. New Strategies. New Beginnings – for the Americas Aviation Industry
Aviation Festival Americas brings together aviation leaders driving change across the globe.
In its 14th year running, as a leading event in the aviation industry, Aviation Festival Americas 2022 continues to be the meeting place where new strategies and relationships are sparked to deliver the solutions you need.
Hear from 200+ of the most influential voices in the industry, across 6 dedicated conference themes.
Join decision-makers from every major airline and airport, as well as solution providers, for 2 full days of education, networking and strategizing!
Aviation Festival Asia always has the most exciting and relevant topics at the forefront of the agenda. 2022 will have new topics that are crucial to industry improvements and recovery with new business models being at the heart of the programme. We present to the aviation industry new changes in the market and translate them into actionable take-aways that drive innovation, experience and revenue.
Over two days Aviation Festival Asia will feature 150 speakers from airlines and airports sharing case- studies and what is needed for the next steps across the industry. This combined with travel technology companies sharing products, solutions and services both onstage and on the exhibition floor then whether you’re in passenger experience, retailing, IT, digital transformation, distribution, loyalty, marketing, operations, communications or innovation, there’s content tailored just for you.
The World Aviation Festival is the world’s most important aviation technology conference and exhibition. The event is for the leaders of the world’s airlines, airports and their most senior executives in charge of the latest tech and strategies that are driving the industry forward.
In 2022 we will be moving to the RAI in Amsterdam to bring our community of 5,000 global executives together once again to be inspired by 400 speakers over 2 incredible days.