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The industry which thrived on the protection of a closed economy and the advantage of a vast domestic market, has failed to organise its evolution on healthy lines
The Gulf aviation boom

In the 1950s when a number of Asian and African countries gained independence, it used to be said: the first task of a new nation is to invent a flag, create a national anthem and float an airline.

In the 1973 oil boom, country after country in the Gulf region struck gold. Aware of the depleting nature of these reserves these countries invested heavily in building infrastructure and later in real estate development. In quick time, these tycoons foresaw the potential for growth by the civil aviation industry. Dubai created one of the finest airports and a large airline.

The population of these countries in themselves do not lend for large custom. Like Singapore, they intelligently created the facilities of a hub that would handle traffic from neighbouring countries and fly them to destinations in Europe, US and elsewhere. Dubai’s Emirates Airlines set the trend and evolved as an international carrier of repute. The evolution of the industry to fly aircraft over increasingly longer distances also helped in a big way.  Several Gulf based airlines offer direct flights to U. S cities eliminating the need for transit through expenseive European airports.

I recently had the occasion to fly Etihad Airlines via Abu Dhabi. For one, the airline offers fares that were competitive. Secondly, the time of travel also got reduced: Chennai - Chicago is covered in just 20 hours. In Abu Dhabi, an extremely important facility has been created: the airline has helped set up a unit of US Immigration and customs at the Abu Dhabi airport and  passengers flying the Etihad Airlines disembarking in US airports are treated as domestic air passengers and could just walk straight out of the airport with no formalities of immigration or customs delaying them.

This has the twin advantage of eliminating the wait in long queues at the immigration and customs sections of the US airports and obviously the much cheaper costs of space, staff and other services at Abu Dhabi.


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