Millions Of Passengers Rub Shoulders In Crowded Skies

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Written By Mahmoud Sarvari

Less than 50 years ago, affordable air travel for everyone was a dream – but now the reality is becoming a nightmare in our crowded skies.

The latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are already out of date since a survey in 2014.

Then 8 million people took to the skies every day in more than 102,000 flights that criss-crossed the globe.

That equates to close to 335,000 passengers taking off in 4,250 aircraft every hour.

The place where those flights are wing tip to wing tip is over the United Arab Emirates, where airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have elevated into tourist destinations and international hubs.

Wing tip to wing tip aircraft

Elsewhere, these jobs are split between tourist airports, like London Luton and Stansted and the UK’s international hub at London Heathrow.

Not so in the UAE, which also has a mish-mash of national air traffic controls and a pile of military restrictions stopping overflights of sensitive areas – and the Yemen war zone to the south.

Pressure is on the Gulf States to make flying over the region safer for everyone.

Besides the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman all have a slice of the sky and flights over the region are handed on from one air traffic control to another.

Other countries have joined the throng to try and resolve the issues – including Iran, Iraq and war-torn Syria.

Closed door politics

But the wheels turn slowly in the Middle East. No one knows what agreements the negotiators may have reached to improve the problem or if they recommended any action.

That’s the problem of politics behind closed doors.

IATA director general Tony Tyler explained that signs suggest airlines refraining from opening new routes because of lack of airspace.

“Growth is still ahead any air traffic changes,” he said. “There are a lot of delays. There is inconvenience for passengers and added costs for airlines that have to circle before landing or take alternative routes.”

His concerns are underpinned by research that found the average flight delay in the UAE was 36 minutes and revealed evidence that some airlines rerouted to avoid the congestion.