UK plays increasing role in Dubai aviation

19 April 2015

Government funding support is creating opportunities for UK businesses

The $9.2bn deal secured by UK-based Rolls-Royce from Dubai-based Emirates airline on 17 April is just the latest example of how the UK is playing an increasing role in the development of Dubai’s growing aviation sector.

The UK government is taking the lead. The UK Export Finance (UKEF) agency is providing $2bn-worth of export guarantees for the expansion of Al-Maktoum International airport, as well as underwriting a recent $913m 10-year sukuk issued by Emirates airline for the acquisition of four Airbus A380-800 aircraft, which will be delivered over the course of 2015.

The $32bn expansion of Al-Maktoum International airport will make it the biggest airport in the world by 2050 with the capacity to handle 255 million passengers a year. Al-Maktoum will take pressure off Dubai International airport, which is expected to be able to handle 100 million passengers by 2020.

By the same year, Emirates plans to provide more than 250 flights serving about 70 million passengers, compared with 44.5 million in 2013-14, and fulfilling this ambition will require new aircraft, staff and infrastructure.

UK companies are now starting to benefit from the government’s lead, although their products and services must still be competitive. The Rolls-Royce deal is the largest ever secured by the company and involves the supply of more than 200 Trent 900 engines for 50 Airbus A380 aircraft that Emirates ordered at the Dubai Airshow in 2013.

Other UK firms are already working on aviation-related infrastructure projects. Most recently, UK firm Leslie Jones Architecture was appointed to carry out the commercial design work for Al-Maktoum International airport. More UK firms are eyeing opportunities at the airport expansion project and it is understood these include consultants Mott MacDonald, Arup and Atkins and contractors Carillion, Kier and Balfour Beatty.

If these opportunities are transformed into actual contracts and projects, then the UK’s role in Dubai’s aviation sector will become even more prominent.  

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