RIYADH: The airspace above the Gulf region is becoming increasingly congested, resulting in regular flight delays, an expert said here Monday.
Flying time between destinations in the region can be reduced if an innovative mechanism is worked out, said Marvyn Fernandes, an aviation expert.
Fernandes said that flights are often forced to hover above airports, or take off late, due to congestion in the air.
Fernandes, who has been working with a group of Asian aviation experts and engineers to find ways to reduce air traffic, said there is a growing number of aircraft flying in the Gulf region.
Referring to the situation in Saudi Arabia, he quoted figures from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), which showed that domestic and international airports in Saudi Arabia have recorded significant growth in flights. Domestic airports handled about 6.6 million passengers up to June 2015, representing an 11.8 percent increase compared to the same period in 2014.
Fernandes said that Saudi Arabia recorded about 1.3 million international passengers up to June this year, a 28.8 percent increase compared to the same period last year. “This shows a fast-growing trend in the number of passengers and flights to and from Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“The situation is the same with Gulf airports and flights to and from other Gulf countries,” said Fernandes, adding that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is working closely with its member airlines in reducing congestion at Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) airports. “As the Gulf’s aviation industry and airlines grow, so does the air traffic congestion in the region,” he said.
Fernandes said that the IATA considers the fast-growing Gulf area as the center of the Middle East region’s success in the industry. On the need for proper air traffic management in the region, he said “a significant portion of the airspace in the region is currently reserved for the military and their operations.”
He said the GCC states are working with several regional and international organizations to solve the issue. They are discussing a system similar to Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic routes across Europe and works with national authorities, air navigation service providers, civil and military airspace users.
The GCC countries are expecting an annual growth of 6 percent in air traffic in the coming few years, according to a study.

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