GCC airports congestion hampers 'growth and success' of region: Tyler
December 15 2015 09:45 PM
Tony Tyler
Tony Tyler

By Pratap John/Chief Business Reporter


Congestion in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) airports is a problem on account of the region’s “growth and success,” says IATA director-general and CEO, Tony Tyler.

“There has been enormous growth in the region. This is particularly because three big and rapidly growing Gulf carriers – Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad - are based in the region. But, the organisation of air traffic management in the region has not kept pace with the growth in air traffic,” Tyler told Gulf Times at the IATA office in Geneva.

Air traffic management in the GCC region has become more difficult with the fragmentation of ‘Flight Information Region’ or FIR.

“What used to be one single FIR has been fragmented into six different FIRs,” Tyler pointed out.

An FIR is a specified region of airspace in which a flight information service and an alerting service (ALRS) are provided. It is the largest regular division of airspace in use in the world today.

Every portion of the atmosphere belongs to a specific FIR. Smaller countries' airspace is encompassed by a single FIR; larger countries' airspace is subdivided into a number of regional FIRs.

On the need for proper air traffic management in the region, Tyler said a significant portion of the airspace in the region is currently reserved for the military.

“So we are trying to squeeze the fast-growing civil aviation component into a fraction of the airspace. One solution is developing partnerships and trust with the military to open more flexible use zones.”

He said it was up to the governments in the region to support the vision of a “seamless, integrated” air space management. “I know they are working on it,” he said.

Asked whether the limited geographical reach of the region was a major constraint to proper air traffic management, Tyler said,

“With modern air traffic control equipment and air traffic management philosophy, the limitations can be overcome. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

In the absence of proper air traffic management, Gulf carriers could face serious challenges in future, Tyler cautioned.

“The Gulf carriers are growing very fast now. They are big because of their connecting passengers. Their number of originating passengers is very small compared to connecting passengers.

“On-time performance is very important if you have connecting passengers. Because, the delay to one inbound flight can hold up many flights. So, one delay becomes 10, unless you decide not to hold up a flight because of another flight’s delay.

"The problem here is that many passengers in a delayed flight can get stuck in your hub. This will become a huge operational problem and a big constraint on growth in future,” Tyler pointed out.

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