UAE. In releasing Dubai Airports’ 2020 traffic performance yesterday, CEO Paul Griffiths accompanied them with a video address in which he laid bare the challenges that the company has faced throughout the pandemic and the way forward as the aviation sector edges towards recovery.

It is a compelling and deeply insightful speech, anchored by a mission to restore traveller confidence that we are pleased to present here in both written and video form.   

During 2020, we experienced challenges never before seen in the travel industry. Billions of people across the globe went into lockdown, fearful for their medical safety. The economic and social impacts have been dramatic.

Despite these challenges, we emerge at the end of 2020 with 25.9 million passengers having passed through our airport. Thanks to the dedicated commitment of our entire team, we remain optimistic that in future we will recover to former levels of traffic we enjoyed in 2019.


[Click to view the 5-minute video version of the address on this page by Paul Griffiths]

Through these challenging times, one of the most important qualities is strength and resilience. And we’ve seen that not just from our staff, but from our partners, from our stakeholders, from our airline customers, from our concessionaires – everyone involved in making Dubai Airports the success it’s been to date.

It’s incredibly important to regain the confidence of every individual traveller

One of our first challenges was to reduce the scale of our infrastructure to match the greatly reduced level of demand. This was essential to preserve our liquidity and involved us hibernating Terminal 1 Concourse D and Concourse A. What we also had to do is to reassure our travellers that we were making every effort to make DXB and DWC safe, secure and hygienic places for them to continue their journeys in complete confidence.

The global pandemic has created a whole different set of expectations from the travelling public. One of them is for a contactless journey, whereby the passenger can move effortlessly between terminal and aircraft without having to have any contact with any process at all.

As soon as the demand for air travel starts to bounce back, we can quickly bring those facilities back into operation to mirror the demands from our airline customers. Recovering the confidence of the travelling public is a major initiative that we must ceaselessly pursue. It’s incredibly important to regain the confidence of every individual traveller, so they see the combination of the airlines that we serve, and the airports that we operate as safe places for people to travel through towards their destinations.

The global pandemic has created a whole different set of expectations from the travelling public. And we’ve had to move very quickly to anticipate exactly what those expectations are. One of them is for a contactless journey, whereby the passenger can move effortlessly between terminal and aircraft without having to have any contact with any process at all. This has not only led to a safer environment, but also creating greater convenience for our travellers.

One of the initiatives that we’re supporting is the IATA travel pass. This is a mechanism by which passenger data is captured and encoded onto a digital platform together with medical records, and passport information. This information can then flow seamlessly between the relevant control authorities and the airlines to ensure that the passenger journey is as seamless and paperless as it possibly can be.

For the aviation community these technological developments are vital steps to ensure that we can recover the confidence of the travelling public as quickly as possible. In addition, we play a vital role as part of the initiative led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, the Dubai Vaccination and Logistics Alliance, in partnership with DP World, Emirates Sky Cargo, Humanitarian City and the Dubai Health Authority. This initiative is vital to ensure that vaccines can be distributed globally to parts of the world where they are so badly needed.

Whilst traffic numbers are down, we’ve been able to take advantage of that quiet time to progress some of our product enhancements such as the T3 arrivals project [see film link -Ed] you can see the fresh new Starbucks. We’ve also got a new Jumeirah Arrivals Lounge where hotel guests can wait in comfort after their flights.

2021 is clearly going to be a year in which we face more challenges. But whilst we must plan for austerity, we must maintain the hope that prosperity lies ahead. Whilst there are some challenges for the rest of the year we must look forward to a brighter future.

And we’ve got plenty to celebrate. In October, we see the launch of Expo – the greatest show that we believe the world will have ever seen. Then of course in November, we have our own Dubai Air Show. And in December, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. So undoubtedly 2021 is going to be a difficult year and there are many challenges ahead. However, I’m confident that there’s room for optimism, thanks largely to the skill, dedication and commitment of the entire Dubai Airports team.