Gulf aviation authorities must engage in much more coordination to ensure that growth is not scuppered by airspace congestion, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in remarks made at the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit that Gulf hubs face a challenge to continue their rapid growth.
He cautioned that "it will be a challenge to keep up infrastructure development in line with growing demand and to ensure that that skies can still operate efficiently as the industry grows".
He added: "The Gulf hubs already face a similar challenge where much more coordination in airspace management is needed."
Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Jeddah all have fast-growing airlines that feed increasing traffic into airspace already suffering congestion and delays.
Adding to the crunch is the wide use of airspace on the Arabian side of the Gulf by the military for air strikes over Iraq, Syria and Yemen - leaving narrow corridors for commercial traffic.
Tyler's comments come as latest forecasts suggest Middle East airlines will grow strongly and will see an extra 237 million passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region by 2034.
IATA said the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will all enjoy strong growth of 5.6 per cent, 4.8 per cent, and 4.6 per cent respectively.
The total market size will grow annually by 4.9 percent and will be 383 million passengers by 2034, it added.
Globally, Tyler said airlines will transport 3.8 billion passengers and 53 million tonnes of air cargo this year. In doing so, they will support some $2.4 trillion in economic activity and some 58 million jobs.
"By 2034, global demand will reach seven billion passengers, but that demand can only be accommodated through a working together approach by all aviation stakeholders including governments," he added.
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 report, commissioned by NATS, the air traffic management specialists and undertaken by Oxford Economics, last year.