quotes Irish aviation pioneers shaping the Middle East’s future aerospace ambitions

14 November 2022
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Updated 15 November 2022

Irish aviation pioneers shaping the Middle East’s future aerospace ambitions

From Dubai to Doha, the Middle East has a long established and trusted reputation for hosting major international aviation hubs. Either as destinations for those seeking sunny climes, or those taking a stepping stone to connect around the world, major Gulf cities are renowned for being leaders in aviation and aerospace, and are striving to achieve new ambitions despite the unprecedented challenges faced by the industry.

Aviation was undoubtedly one of the most impacted sectors during the pandemic, with planes grounded, travel plans abandoned and jobs lost globally. As the world has emerged from the crisis, the industry has made a strong comeback, with people eager to experience new adventures, travel to see loved ones and explore business opportunities globally. The strength of a country’s aviation sector is central to the strength of a country’s economy, with the sector supporting about 3.3 million jobs and generating about $213 billion in Middle East economic activity.

Irish companies have long-standing relationships with the Middle East’s aviation and aerospace sector, helping to shape the region’s ambitions over the last 20 years with innovative products, services and solutions. They recognize the huge opportunities and potential ahead in the region as the industry strengthens with increased passenger numbers, new aircraft deliveries and an appetite to continue improving customer experience.

The Middle East has continued to leap ahead of global rivals as a hub for aviation travel as it opened post-pandemic quicker than others. While there are already many leading international hubs in the region, it is becoming an increasingly competitive field as Saudi Arabia undergoes rapid development.

New international aviation hubs are on the horizon, from Jeddah to Riyadh, with the Kingdom putting its attention firmly on aviation and aerospace as it strives to meet its Vision 2030, and generate just under $100 billion in the sector by the end of the decade. The country has huge ambitions to serve 300 million travelers as it invests more than $140 billion into the industry to enable it to tap into international routes and become a global aviation hub. Massive airport expansions through private-sector partnerships will be key to the success of these growth plans.

Saudi Arabia is putting particular focus on the growth of its airlines in its vision. The country is set to launch a new multi-million-dollar national carrier, Riyadh International Airlines, in the final months of 2023, alongside its existing flag carrier, Saudia. Saudi Arabia’s mega-city NEOM has also confirmed a further dedicated airline and seamless curb-to-gate experience to cater for a surge in international tourism.

Ireland has always placed huge importance on existing and new opportunities across the sector, with Ireland’s Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton visiting the UAE and Saudi Arabia last week to see firsthand the Irish world-class goods and services already in use in the region, and to discuss with ministers the huge potential across transportation and tourism for Irish companies.

Ireland has a long history in aviation and aerospace, being a proven pioneer over the last 100 years in the sector. From the first non-stop transatlantic flight to the first country to introduce aircraft leasing, to introducing the world to duty-free shopping at Shannon Airport in 1947, Ireland has a successful record of aviation innovation firsts.

The future for aviation and aerospace in the Gulf is hugely exciting and now is the time for Irish companies to seize the opportunities in the region. Companies in the Middle East place huge faith in Irish innovation, valuing their skills, world-class expertise, knowledge, and agility in goods and services when responding to the demand of local partners.

It may surprise you, but Irish aviation innovation is embedded across Gulf aviation with incomparable industry offerings. Whether focused on expertise in maintenance, repair and overhaul to inflight entertainment solutions on board the plane, to the seat you are sitting on when you take off, you are highly likely to come across Irish innovation on any flight you take in the Middle East.

Last year’s export figures from Enterprise Ireland-supported companies to India, the Middle East and Africa highlighted the success they have been seeing, with year-on-year growth in the region. Exports rose to 18 percent last year across the Middle East, and are now valued at €1.45 billion ($1.49 billion), with aviation one of the leading sectors.

A great example of an Irish company that continues to take leaps ahead in the region is daa International, which prides itself on developing the next generation of Saudi aviation leaders and continuing to secure major contracts. During the trade visit to Saudi Arabia by Naughton, she saw firsthand daa’s success in managing Terminal Five at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh since 2016. The company also recently won a multi-million-euro contract to manage King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah for the next five years and will be playing a major part in the Saudi National Transportation & Logistics Strategy, which aims to increase passenger traffic to 300 million by 2030.

The much-anticipated multi-year contract between daa International and The Red Sea Development Company was also signed during the minister’s visit. The deal will see the successful Irish company manage all elements of the Red Sea International Airport, helping to deliver a unique airport experience and play an essential part in the new destination’s vision. Hundreds of local people will be hired in ambitious projects, with the first flights due to take off early next year and set to accommodate more than 2 million passengers annually when complete.

In the face of challenges presented to the industry, Irish companies respond with ingenuity and recognise the growth coming across aviation in the region over the next decade.

The future for aviation and aerospace in the Gulf is hugely exciting and now is the time for Irish companies to seize the opportunities in the region. Companies in the Middle East place huge faith in Irish innovation, valuing their skills, world-class expertise, knowledge, and agility in goods and services when responding to the demand of local partners.

The next decade is an opportunity to combine Saudi ambition with Irish innovation in aviation as the sector surges ahead. A partnership that is set to continue to soar and achieve more.

Alan O’Mahony, Senior Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland MENA