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Dubai Civil Aviation Authority director general, Mohammed Ahli, provides his recollections of the creation of ACI Asia-Pacific and thoughts on its progress over the past decade.

What was the initial reaction to the proposed merger of ACI’s Asia and Pacific regions?

There were reservations by some at first, but after serious consideration by all involved it was decided that unification was the best way forward for both the Asia and Pacific regions.

What were the reservations about the proposed merger and what were viewed as the key benefits?

There were reservations from the Pacific region, probably on the belief that the merger would dilute their status and the dominance within the region. At that time Hong Kong and China were fast developing and, of course, airports in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific’s North American members such as San Francisco and Vancouver were already strong and well established. The key factor in Asia at the time was India. 

Benefits included the fact that the smaller, least developed and less privileged airports would gain the opportunity to have access to the resources and expertise of the most developed ones. This was true in terms of technology and best management practices.

The Asia region brought in 224 airports and additional financial resources that supported the integrated ACI Asia-Pacific region. The region we created had more than 400 airports giving it extra strength while geographically it became largest region of ACI. 

I also believe that the addition of Asia’s heritage enhanced the diversity of the people of the Pacific region and led to greater co-operation among member airports.

How did you and your colleagues at ACI Asia and ACI Pacific manage to make it HAPPEN?

Considerable work and lobbying was done from 2004 onwards until an agreement was reached to merge the two regions. Key people that come to my mind are Dr David Pang [Airport Authority Hong Kong]; Toru Nakamura [NAA, Narita International Airport Corporation]; Ghanem Al Hajri [Sharjah International Airport], K. Ramalingam [Airports Authority of India], Osmond de Silva [Dubai Civil Aviation Authority]; and many others who worked tirelessly in this regard. The then director general of ACI World, Robert Aaronson, and Sydney Airport’s Max Moore-Wilton were very much in favour of the merger of the two regions. It took almost two years until the merger agreement was signed but it was worth the wait.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the region going forward?

Capacity constraints – we are going to need new terminals, runways, airports and operations-enhancing IT systems to cope with the forecast rise in demand over the next 20 to 30 years.

If you were to offer one piece of advice to the current regional director, what would it be?

Meet the future challenges faced by the region as one team bearing in mind the importance of smaller or developing airports.

How has the industry changed over the last10 years and specifically how has it changed for you and Dubai? 

The movement of passengers and aircraft has improved tremendously. Airports across the region have continued to develop their infrastructure to facilitate increasing demand and provide a more efficient and customer-friendy experience for passengers. New technology has played a major role in this transformation and helped reduce any negative impact on capacity constraints.

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