Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dubai Airport Versus Changi Airport Singapore

Dubai Airport to overtake Singapore Changi in 2008

In mid 70's when flights from India would stop over in Dubai on route to Europe via Rome. Dubai arrived on the scene after fading away of Beirut but since then it has made such long strides that it rivals many airports across the western world . In Asia, now it is challenging Changi airport in Singapore - who has been one of big factors in the success of Singapore.

Dubai Airport is all poised overtake Singapore Changi Airport in 2008, in terms of total annual passenger traffic. Dubai is expected to break the 40 million passenger barrier in 2008, after handling 34.3 million passengers in 2007, up 19.2% year-on-year - and well above the targeted 33 million passengers. But would it match the efficiency of Changi ? This is the most acid test for Dubai Airport.

In 1992 , when I arrived first time in Dubai , I had got down from mobile ladder and walked towards Terminal walking in the hot sun while business passengers whisked away in motors waiting for them. Last week, when I passed through the Dubai airport, waiting at an immigration queue was over an hour .

Can aviation technology progress can challenge the supremacy of the country ? It does appear so for Singapore. For Changi airport , bulk of passengers who came to Changi were transit passengers who went to Australia, West Coast USA and Japan. 10% of these passengers spent at least a night in Singapore. Now with Airbus 380, equations threaten to change the very success of the Changi airport. Now there is no need to stop over at Changi for refuelling and pay landing charges. Qantas can fly direct and so would be Emirates. In case of Dubai airport, they don't have this issue as all the countries around it are not as strong as Emirates nor the airports are equipped with 380 landing facilities. Dubai seem well placed to grow unless Qatar Airways and Etihad pour money to cut down Dubai Airport.

It did surprise me that Skytrx for 2008 did not have any place for Dubai Airport despite Emirates covering more destinations and ferrying more passengers than most host airlines. But a closer study of the ambiance does make me realize why Dubai airport is yet to be at top spot. Dubai airport dazzles during the night time but its pitiable sight to see poor immigrant workers catching sleep huddled along the walls covering their bodies with their bedsheets while elite passengers guzzle their parched throats in Irish Bar.

How would Singapore plan to adapt to changing aviation trends and make people visit Singapore? Casino, Formula 1 is an attempt in that direction but would that be enough? Tony Fernandes Blog lists attributes for Singapore airlines. I agree with his analysis and am sure they are applicable for Changi airport as well.

• Focus and disciplined. They stick to their model religiously. They are premium brand and they don't cut corners i.e. they are not a 5 stars value airline. They are a 5 star premium airline.
• They market aggressively. Too many companies don't put enough into marketing.
• They hire the best people. It's a meritocracy. The competition within the organization is fierce and the best people get the jobs.
• The government is very pro-business. Bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. Things are done fast, infrastructure is been built quickly.
• They innovate - the first all business class airline to New York. They’re the first to order the A380.

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