The Business Year

Tony Douglas

UAE, ABU DHABI - Transport

Ace Hubs

CEO, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC)


Tony Douglas joined Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) on March 1, 2013 after having completed Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KIPZ) on schedule and below budget as the CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC). Prior to coming to the UAE, he was COO and Group Chief Executive designate for Laing O’Rourke. He has also held a number of senior executive positions with BAA, the UK’s leading airport infrastructure operator, culminating with his appointment as Chief Executive in charge of Heathrow.

How will the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone strengthen the Emirate as an international business hub? The free zone is an opportunity to connect organizations that are […]

How will the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone strengthen the Emirate as an international business hub?

The free zone is an opportunity to connect organizations that are linked with aviation directly, and there are a number of obvious examples. Cargo has a direct correlation in terms of growth in passenger numbers because suitcases take a fraction of the available space in the cargo hold, with remaining space filled with commercial cargo, as well as dedicated freighters that only fly cargo. As this airport grows as a global hub, so does the cargo component, adding significant business value. The free zone has been deliberately created for businesses that connect freight from one place to many others.

Abu Dhabi Airport passenger numbers have increased from 5 million to 14.7 million in 2012 over a relatively short period. What noticeable trends are emerging?

The large number of dominant markets is a function of population, the expatriate profile, and Etihad Airways. In terms of the markets for us, the number one is India, and interestingly number two is Germany, which came as a bit of a surprise. Etihad has a stake in Air Berlin, which changed the dynamics in terms of the way in which Abu Dhabi is connected as a regional hub. We have a number of very popular routes to India, Germany, Thailand, the Philippines, and the UK. The catalyst in many respects is the economic and understandably strategic Vision 2030. Etihad, a company that has exhibited a stunning performance in recent years, has also driven growth heavily.

What potential is there for the growth and development of Al Ain International Airport?

Al Ain is the largest inland city in the UAE, and is designed as the aerospace cluster. The growth of related businesses will largely determine Al Ain International Airport’s growth. In short, Al Ain International Airport is a key strategic asset, and it will almost certainly grow commercially, but is unlikely to emerge as a major international hub.

What unique offers can you make in this competitive environment?

Emirates has been a game changer over the past 14 years, and the company has almost redefined what big fleets and mainline airlines look like in this day and age, and raised the bar in terms of quality. Etihad, while a younger and smaller airline, has arguably the same, or perhaps a slightly superior quality on offer and its growth has been remarkable. Emirates has enjoyed the benefit of using Dubai that as a destination has continued to evolve over the past 14 years. However, if Dubai is New York, Abu Dhabi is similar to Washington. This is the capital city and a different level of commerce comes with that.

What role can ADAC play in attracting more tourists to Abu Dhabi?

We are an airport-operating company that is focused on infrastructure. Obviously, the airlines decide where to fly, and for both Etihad and Emirates, a significant part of the business proposition is connectivity. Considering the broader Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, making the UAE a tourism destination is a key part of the plan. The work taking place on Saadiyat Island is a good example of a destination proposition for Abu Dhabi. Today, passengers flying from Frankfurt to Sydney and connecting via Abu Dhabi may choose a three-day stopover here because of the leisure attractions. Stopover tourists can watch a Grand Prix, play golf on Saadiyat, or enjoy our beaches. However, in terms of the airport operator ADAC, it is how we implement and market the airport infrastructure—there would be no Saadiyat Island without access to global transport. This is all part of the wisdom of Vision 2030.



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