Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths isn’t worried about the growth in the Chinese economy — yet.
The chief of the United Arab Emirates government-owned airport operator is still seeing positive trajectory in Chinese air travel to and from the major hub of Dubai, he told CNBC at the Dubai Airshow.
Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble about slowing traffic from China, Griffiths replied, “I’m not sure that’s the case.”
“We’re still seeing very positive growth on the Chinese routes, so much so that we’ve now introduced specific features throughout the airports — hot water dispensers, Mandarin menus at some of the restaurants, the ability to use Chinese payment services throughout the airport.
“So we are getting ready for a big expansion in trade from China. And I think as with a lot of markets in the past, we’ve been able to demonstrate we can buck the overall trends and still see growth where the others are not experiencing the same level of growth.”
China’s gross domestic product growth was hit by a slowdown to 6% in the third quarter of this year from 6.2% in the previous quarter, its lowest in three decades.
Growth trajectory remains highly uncertain as the trade war between China and the U.S. stretches into its 16th month, with high-stakes negotiations underway.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) posted a 2.4% decline in passenger traffic for this year’s third quarter, handling 23.2 million passengers between July and the end of September.
The first nine months of 2019 saw 4.5% fewer passengers than the same time period a year ago at 64.5 million.
Griffiths attributed the declines to a 45-day long closure of a runway at DXB in the spring, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX jet since March, the liquidation of major Indian carrier Jet Airways in April, which he said caused a “hiatus in Indian traffic.”
DXB is the world’s busiest airport for international travelers, CNBC reported last year, handling 89.1 million passengers in 2018.
Meanwhile, in other Dubai Airshow news, Emirates today signed an US$8.8 billion purchase agreement for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The United Arab Emirates flag carrier appears to have selected the 296-seat -9 twinjet in place of some of the larger -10 model covered by an earlier memorandum of understanding.
Deliveries of the new Dreamliners will begin in May 2023 and will span five years. It still has 126 of Boeing’s 777Xs on order and remains the world’s largest 777 operator with 155 of the twinjet in its fleet. The new agreement also covered the provision of 777 spare parts by Boeing Global Services.