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Economic pain The aviation industry is desperately looking for ways to pick up speed after the damage wrought by government restrictions and a collapse in passenger confidence. According to the Air Transport Action Group, it was making a $3.5 trillion annual contribution to the global economy before the pandemic. However, with flights grounded, the numbers going through Dubai International Airport have collapsed in a similar way to the rest of the industry. Even so, 2020 was Dubai’s seventh year in a row as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers, having overtaken London Heathrow in 2014. A record 86.3 million people passed through in 2019, but as the coronavirus pandemic grounded flights, that fell 70% to 25.8 million last year. Mr Griffiths wants that number to rise again: “We need to get into risk management rather than risk avoidance.” He added: “I just don’t think the world can survive without that mobility for much longer, certainly socially and economically, but you can understand why countries around the world are being very conservative. The last thing any politician wants is a surge of infection on their turf.” Last year, the United Arab Emirates saw its economy contract by 6.1% amid the global slowdown. For Dubai, a Middle Eastern hub which plays a key role in joining East and West, air travel is key to repairing the damage. Mr Griffiths says: “The city’s been built as a global hub and it’s enabled a tremendous commercial and tourism centre to be developed here in the UAE. “So we are pretty dependent, because at least 35% of GDP is based around the enablement of travel and tourism, so it has a big dramatic effect here.” To get through the crisis, the airport has cut costs by closing entire terminals and concourses, which means a bailout from Dubai’s government has been avoided. “We were able to get into a position where we could cover all of our costs with about 20% of our throughput, which is where we are at the moment,” explains Mr Griffiths. He adds that 8,500 jobs have been reduced to 2,500. “It’s been a lot of pain for a lot of people. But we’re well positioned to recover now.”

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