An estimated $16.3 billion in economic benefits can be achieved in the Middle East over the next 10 years by delivering enhancements to air traffic control systems, according to a new report.
The study, commissioned by NATS, the air traffic management specialists and undertaken by Oxford Economics, comes as aircraft fleets across the region are forecast to grow at an annual rate of more than 10 percent to 2025 and skies are becoming increasingly congested.
According to the report, $16.3 billion in economic benefits can be generated by avoiding a doubling in delays over the course of that period.
It said the congestion also represents a significant threat to the two million jobs that depend on aviation and, more generally, to the $116 billion regional aviation economy.
The report comes as the UAE announced it will start restructuring its crowded air space next year to make room for Gulf carriers' ambitious growth plans.
The project will include work on designing the country's air space into sectors and how each sector will work together for a seamless flow of traffic.
Of the $16.3 billion surplus potentially available, 44 percent (or $7.2 billion) would be realised by passengers and 56 percent ($9.1 billion) to airlines (through faster travel times).
Despite the huge growth in aviation as governments invest in increasing trade and tourist flows, the region's available airspace has not kept pace, according to the report.
In addition to approximately half the airspace in the Middle East being reserved for military flights, the number of handovers that take place between different authorities in different divisions of airspace can lead to additional delays, it added.
Oxford Economics calculated that the average flight in the region was delayed by 36 minutes and that 82 percent of those delays were attributable to air traffic control capacity and staffing issues.
By 2025, without further investment in air traffic control systems, a doubling of delay minutes to 59 minutes would cost the region $16.3 billion, it claimed.
John Swift, director, NATS Middle East, said: "This report highlights a clear economic case for much greater institutional, operational and technological investment in air traffic control systems across the region. It reveals that there are huge economic benefits available for airports, airlines and travellers, but also significant risks for governments in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
"As the Middle East diversifies its economy and focuses increasingly on international trade, ensuring that aviation is up to world class standards is vital. The region has made huge strides in investing in aircraft and infrastructure - it is critical, though, that the 'invisible infrastructure' of airspace is not forgotten. Increased collaboration between civil aviation authorities and the private sector will go a long way to closing that gap."
In the Middle East, NATS said it is undertaking consultancy projects including fundamental airspace redesign in Qatar and Oman.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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