The airport infrastructure of the UAE is growing at a rapid rate

By Priya Chetty on November 23, 2019

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) which was established in 1996 by Federal Cabinet Decree (Law 4) regulates the Civil Aviation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It also provides designated airport services with an emphasis on safety and security and to strengthen the aviation industry within the UAE and to its connected areas. The GCAA, which is the sole authority for the control and regulation of civil aviation in the UAE, is responsible for the provision of en-route air navigation services and all aspects of flight safety.

GCAA’s role in the safety and security of the airports

The UAE  is an active member of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and its specialized committees. The main function of the GCAA is to promulgate the general policy for civil aviation and propose laws and regulations which ensure its implementation in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Even though the UAE has an enviable aviation safety and security record, but to satisfy the demands for improved standards of safety and tighter security, the regulatory bodies are working in conjunction with the aviation industry.

However, the GCAA highlights that the UAE aviation industry is driven by commercial interests. This indicates that economic pressures guide safety and security policies and can affect all sectors of the civil aviation industry. This could have an adverse impact on public safety and security. It is, therefore, of crucial importance to the whole civil aviation community that the GCAA remains focused on aviation safety and security (GCAA Strategic Plan, 2011). In order to keep pace with the latest developments through future planning, clear bases, and pre-determined programmes the GCAA is always on the look for plans, initiatives and updates to secure success.

Dubai international airport

The UAE commands over 35 airports out of which six are international (Linden 2006; Abed et al. 2005; Walker et al. 2010). Dubai International airport as the largest enjoys the success of being a hub between the east and the west, while Abu Dhabi is also making rapid progress. It is also the busiest in the UAE that commands around 105 airlines from the UAE to different World destinations. It also handles more than 120 million passengers in a year (Oxford Business Group 2014; Linden 2006).

Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal

Abu Dhabi had planned to spend around $6.8 billion in 2017 to improve and develop the air transport infrastructure. Such improvement is projected towards increasing the passengers from 12.5 million in 2014 to 47 million annually (Oxford Business Group 2014). To live up to this plan, Abu Dhabi has constructed the Midfield Terminal, the largest of its kind in UAE in the Middle East (Oxford Business Group 2014). Another airport, the Al Ain International Airport, which is 25 kilometres away from Al Ain City, harbours around 10 airlines to operate from this region.

Sharjah International Airport

The Sharjah International Airport is the oldest and the first airport f UAE. Founded in 1932, there has been steady but no rapid growth in this airport. However, from 2005, some progress has been reported in this airport. The Ra’s al-Khaimah International Airport, located 18 kilometres away from the Ra’s al-Khaimah City is a modern airport, developing and progressing at a rapid rate. Lastly, the Fujairah International Airport remains as the international airport which finds its importance in the fact that it is the only airport in the East Coast of UAE (Abed et al. 2005).

Key aviation statistics- major airlines and passenger traffic

Some of the major airlines of the UAE include:

  • Etihad funded by the Abu Dhabi Government;
  • Gulf Air, combined ownership of UAE, Bahrain and Oman;
  • Emirates, a UAE government based in Dubai;
  • Air Arabia, owned by the Sharjah government;
  • Royal Jet, UAE-Government owned, and more (Abed et al. 2005; Walker et al. 2010).

Etihad carried up to 8.3 million passengers in 2003 and this was increased by 17% in 2010 in 90 different destinations. As of 2011, it was worth around $3 billion (Oxford Business Group 2013). It is the strength of Etihad that the Abu Dhabi International Airport (ADIA) has received remarkable growth in recent years (Oxford Business Group 2013). The Emirati airlines since its inception in 1985 on the other hand, have won many airline awards for its outstanding services such as the Global Airline of the Year (Jha 2005).

Airport infrastructure in the country

The Dubai International Airport was the first to be constructed in the UAE in 1959, and now it has become one of the fastest-growing airports in the world (Jha 2005). Dubai as one of the leading airports in the UAE spares no cost in building infrastructure that lives up to the expectation of the regional as well as the global aviation industry (Oxford Business Group 2014). Also as the second largest in the world for international passenger traffic (reported by Airports Council International), Dubai International airport has become utmost important to prioritize their security system (Dubai Aviation Authority 2012). Such objective is in pursuit in Dubai under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Sin Saeed Al Maktoum (Chairman of Dubai Airports, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Group), stakeholders and employees (Dubai Aviation Authority 2012). With increasing infrastructure and provision of safe and secure airports, Dubai plans to accommodate 45 million passengers per year (IBP 2014).

Abu Dhabi International Airports also aims to accommodate annual passengers as high as 27 million by 2020 and 40 million by 2030 (Parsons 2012). During the Oxford Business Group (OBG) interviews with Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company, he stated that they aim to deliver aviation infrastructure (Jha 2005). The Midfield Terminal alone is expected to provide services to more than 30 million people by the end of 2020. This terminal is made with the plan to develop better arrival halls, bus gates, security screening facilities and other services.


  • Abed, I. Al et al., (2005). The United Arab Emirates Yearbook 2005, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Trident Press Ltd GCAA (2014). GCAA Strategy Plan 2011-2013. UAE Civil Aviation Authority. Available at
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  • Walker, J., Butler, S., Schulte-Peevers, A., & Shearer, I. (2010). Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula. Abu Dhabi, UAE: Lonely Planet.
  • Oxford Business Group, (2014). The Report: Abu Dhabi 2014, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Oxford Business Group Oxford Business Group, (2013). The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Oxford Business Group
  • Jha, A.K., (2005). Institutions, Performance, and the Financing of Infrastructure Services in the Caribbean, Washington, USA: World Bank Publications.
  • Dubai Aviation Authority. (2015). Security & Customs.
  • IBP, (2014). UAE Insolvency (Bankruptcy) Laws and Regulations Handbook – Strategic Information and Basic Laws, Washington, USA: Int’l Business Publications.
  • Parsons, (2012). Abu Dhabi International Airport Expansion, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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