SHARJAH: The Management of Sharjah Airport Authority held its annual meeting at the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park, during which the most significant achievements made by the airport in the year 2020 were presented, and the future plans and programs that will be implemented in 2021 – aimed at enhancing the airport’s strategic position regionally and globally – were also revealed in this meeting.
The meeting was chaired by Ali Salem Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority, in the presence of Sheikh Faisal bin Saoud Al Qassimi, Director of Sharjah Airport Authority. During the meeting, the directors of the authority’s departments presented their achievements, plans and strategies for the coming year and beyond.
During the year 2020, the Sharjah Airport Authority continued implementing its ambitious plans and celebrated a number of achievements, including the completion of the East Expansion project, attracting new airlines, and introducing new flight routes, as well as launching numerous initiatives and partnerships.
Despite the challenges imposed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effect it had on tourism, travel, and air freight traffic, the number of passengers through Sharjah Airport during the year 2020 reached 4.2 million, while aircraft movement (regular and irregular) recorded more than 33.2 thousand flights, while Cargo traffic through the airport reached 99.6 thousand tons, and the airport achieved an increase in the volume of non-scheduled flights by 635.9%, while the growth rate in the non-scheduled cargo movement increased by 54.6% compared to the previous year.
Sharjah Airport Authority has worked to continue implementing its Emiratisation strategy in 2020, and increased its number of employees to reach 684 staff, including 443 UAE citizens by 64%, while the percentage of Emiratisation in leadership positions reached approximately 90%, and supervisory positions reached 71%.
Continue to lead the road to excellence in the aviation sector
Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority, said: “Sharjah Airport continues to position itself on the global travel map with greater resilience and determination to achieve more record-breaking achievements, thanks to the support and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and continuous follow-up by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Executive Council.”
Al Midfa added, “The success of Sharjah Airport in continuing to increase its capacity through expansion operations comes as a result of clear vision, a proactive strategy based on innovative solutions, and an advanced infrastructure. Today, we are more determined than ever to accelerate the revival of international travel by cooperating with and adhering to all directives issued by the concerned authorities, and we aspire to continue on this pioneering path of achieving the emirate’s strategic vision in economic development. ”
Creating a work environment based on innovation
On his part, Sheikh Faisal bin Saoud Al Qassimi, Director of Sharjah Airport Authority, said, “We are proud of the results and successes achieved by Sharjah Airport during 2020, which were the outcome of all the great efforts made by all employees across the departments. Their commitment and cooperation with strategic partners had a major role in overcoming the challenges imposed by the emerging COVID-19 pandemic last year.”
Sheikh Faisal bin Saoud Al Qassim added, “Going forward, we are keen to continue adding to these successes and will be looking to upgrade the level of services provided by Sharjah Airport. This will be implemented through development processes and creating a work environment based on innovation, in line with advancements in the aviation sector and the travel market, both regionally and globally.”
He thanked all employees, travelers, and customers, in addition to airlines, freighters, strategic partners, cargo and travel agents, and private flight operators, for their confidence in Sharjah Airport and their use of its services and facilities.
Community initiatives, projects, and international awards
During the year 2020, Sharjah Airport witnessed the implementation of many initiatives and community projects, in addition to welcoming new carriers to Sharjah Airport community, achieving many awards, and participating in national and international initiatives and events – all of which contributed to firming the airport’s position locally, regionally and globally.
Sharjah Airport Authority inaugurated the East Expansion project in October 2020, which extends over an area of 4000 square meters, at a total cost of 40 million Dirhams. The expansion is a valuable addition to the airport terminal and contributes to enhancing its capacity. The development also falls in line with the Authority’s long-term plans to raise the airport’s capacity to accommodate 20 million passengers by 2025. The project includes four new gates, contributing to ease the flow of passengers’ movement. It consists of two floors equipped with the latest and most innovative travel technologies and provides distinctive facilities that embody the airport’s commitment to providing the highest standards of services, in order to ensure the comfort and satisfaction of travelers.
SAA has implemented a comprehensive maintenance program across the Terminal various facilities, including redesigning the entrance to the common arrivals area, renovating the customer service tables, changing the floors and lighting systems in the entire transit area leading to the departure gates in the passenger terminal and the adjacent areas. Additionally, the security inspection rooms and staff lounges have undergone a design redecoration, and the lighting in the aircraft parking lots has been reinstalled according to international approved standards.
Work commenced on the central utility building project, which is expected to be completed in the middle of 2022, and includes the airport operations coordination center, the call center, the data center and servers, the airport central cooling unit, the electrical supply, and water tanks.
The authority completed the engineering and procurement building structure works and the selection of the contractor for the finishing works of the building. Finishing works are expected to start in the second quarter of 2021 for a period of one year.
The existing first & business class hall was completely renovated & redesigned, and a new concept was introduced called “The Lounge,” with the aim of improving the level of services offered to first & business class travelers. The new lounge which can accommodate more than 170 people is distinguished by its contemporary design aesthetics, and new facilities such as quiet areas for relaxation, and an interactive play area for children.
Awards and accreditations
Sharjah Airport became the first airport in the GCC and the second in the Middle East to obtain the global accreditation certificate in the management of carbon emissions for airports, which was awarded due to the airport completing the requirements of the highest level of carbon neutrality (3+) over a year. The award was issued by Airports Council International (ACI). The achievement reflects the airport’s vision to implement projects and initiatives aimed at reaching the highest standards of environmental sustainability.
Additionally, Sharjah Airport received the Airport Health Accreditation (AHA) certificate by the Airports Council International (ACI) and became the first airport in the UAE to obtain this international accreditation, and the seventh in the Middle East. The certificate was awarded in recognition of Sharjah Airport’s efforts to provide a safe airport experience for travelers in the wake of exceptional circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sharjah Airport received the Silver Accreditation for Green Airports for the year 2020, in the category of water management. Through an initiative which sees the airport recycle and filter water as per guidelines issued by the Airports Council International (ACI) for the Asia-Pacific region, Sharjah Airport was awarded the accreditation in recognition of its commitment to environmentally friendly solutions.
The airport also obtained the Customer Service ISO 10003, 10002, and 10001, in recognition of its successful customer satisfaction rate and its comprehensive complaints and dispute handling system. Renewal of ISO 27001: 2013 Information Security Certification.
Sharjah Airport has won 4 awards in the Excellence Financial Performance Awards 2020 for the category of leading government entity in implementing procurement standards, the leading government entity in implementing accounting standards, and in the category of outstanding financial department head and outstanding financial auditor from independent entities.
During the year 2020, Sharjah Airport welcomed two new passenger airlines with regular flights; one being an Egyptian carrier “Fly Egypt”, which operated an average of 3 flights per week between Sharjah Airport and Sohag and Cairo, with a total of 39 flights within 3 months. The second was the Pakistani carrier “Serene Air”, which operated flights from Sharjah Airport to several cities in Pakistan, at a rate of 7 flights per week, with a total of 51 flights within 4 months.
The number of non-scheduled airlines operating seasonal flights during the winter season increased to 3 companies. These were “Nordwind Airlines”, which operates a weekly flight from Russia to Sharjah Airport; the Ukrainian airline, “Sky-Up Airlines” which operated 52 tourist flights in 2020; and Russian “Ural Airlines”, which began operating an average weekly flight during this winter season 2020/21.
To determine the level of customer satisfaction with the services provided, tablets were distributed in the arrivals and departures terminals, at passport control counters, and also at information desks. Travelers were asked to complete a questionnaire through these tablets and relay their feedback on the precautionary measures applied by the airport.
Sharjah Airport Authority honored many winners of the “Because We Care” program for customer opinions, which since its launch in 2009 has received great attention and a remarkable response from customers and travelers. The program allows travelers to give their opinions about the services and facilities provided to them, and to submit their suggestions related to their experience at the airport.
Training and rehabilitation
The Authority’s Support Services Department launched the “Institutional Capacity Development” program in 2020, which includes 22 training programs. The program was based on 4 main pillars: “Strategy”, “Qualification of Human Resources”, “Dealers”, and “Partners” Policies and Supporting Methodologies, and was launched to raise the efficiency and effectiveness of institutional capabilities. The program’s outputs resulted in the launch of 29 development initiatives aimed at achieving 18 strategic objectives.
The Support Services Department organized a “Customer Service Program” that includes 4 employees of the first row in the authority, whereby 250 employees have been qualified through specialized training courses in the management of government services and applications and innovation in customer service and experiences.
The Sharjah Airport Authority has renewed its partnership agreement with “Alpha Catering” for a period of 10 years, until 2030. The partnership involves Alpha Catering providing its inflight catering services for all scheduled and non-scheduled carries operating though Sharjah Airport.
Sharjah Airport signed a concession agreement with the National Parking Company (Mawgif) to manage and operate the parking lots of Sharjah Airport, where Mawgif will be using the latest technologies and offering new methods of paying fees through smart phone applications.
Exceptional Circumstances (COVID-19)
Sharjah Airport has implemented many preventive and health and safety measures, such as social distancing and ensuring that all airport users wear a personal mask, and by intensifying efforts in sterilization and disinfection operations throughout the airport terminal, including the departures and arrivals areas and public facilities, in addition to regular disinfection of all equipment and devices used by travelers and staff.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Community Protection, SAA provided the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to employees working on the front line at Sharjah Airport. The vaccination drive was in cooperation with the Sharjah Government, and the Airport was the first entity in the Emirate of Sharjah to provide the vaccine to employees.
The Medical Center of Sharjah Airport in cooperation with the Ministry of Health provided integrated services, including conducting COVID-19 PCR tests for travelers, as well as for employees and their families. The total number of tests conducted at the Medical Center reached 108,723 travelers and employees since the beginning of the pandemic.
Technology had the primary role in enhancing the remote work system for the authority’s employees to ensure business continuity, as the authority activated all possible technological means to confront the pandemic. This was achieved through activating electronic portals and providing employees with the necessary tools to perform their work tasks, while providing the latest technology programs. Virtual meetings were held to ensure business continuity.
Several other smart systems are available at the airport to maintain the health and safety of travelers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as self-sterilizing systems available for the escalators, which automatically sterilize the escalators as soon as they run, to ensure that they are sterilized and cleaned constantly and in order to preserve the safety of travelers from the transmission of germs. This is in addition to the application of contactless control systems for elevators, and technology allowing people to control elevators by pointing with their hands remotely towards the required options shown on the control panels without touching them to reduce the possibility of spreading germs. Thermal cameras have also been installed to measure temperature of passengers and all airport users at the terminal entrance, isolating glass has been installed at the information counters, passport control points and other points with interaction between staff & passengers, and the airport has provided hand sterilization materials and face masks at the entrances to the buildings, as well as educating all employees and parties working with prevention methods.
All commercial and retail outlets operating at the airport are functioning within the guidelines & protocols of health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of all airport users.
Participations in world events
Sharjah Airport Authority participated in a number of exhibitions during 2020. These included: MATCA Tourism and Travel Exhibition that was held in Helsinki in January 2020; the 22nd National Employment Exhibition that was held in February 2020; and the Air Cargo India exhibition in February 2020.
SAA is keen to encourage the participation of its employees in various initiatives and events, such as the celebration of UAE Flag Day, UAE National Day, Martyr Day, National Days of GCCs, and more. The authority organized a set of internal activities, including the annual ceremony, the Happiness Potion initiative, and others, which contributed to employee happiness and raising the level of job satisfaction.
The authority launched one of its largest marketing campaigns on the opening of the East Expansion project, with the aim of promoting new areas and services at the airport, as well as highlighting the most important technologies and systems and their role in facilitating travelers.
Sharjah Airport Duty Free launched the “Shop and Drive” campaign, which includes raffles for 4 cars of the latest BMW models, as part of its policy to delight travelers and motivate them to take advantage of the various options and competitive prices offered by the duty-free market.
SAA also launched an awareness campaign entitled “Safe travel through Sharjah Airport”, in a bid to educate travelers about the pandemic and how to lower the risk of transmission and protect themselves.
The “Summer at Sharjah Airport” campaign was launched by SAA and lasted until mid-September, with the aim of preserving the health and safety of workers and avoiding the risks that they may be exposed to while performing their work during the hottest part of the day.
Sharjah Airport renewed its sponsorship of the Sharjah International Arabian Horse Festival, which enjoys great international participation and a remarkable public and media presence.
The airport also renewed its contract as the main sponsor of the Handball team of Sharjah Sports Club for the second year in a row. As per the sponsorship agreement, Sharjah Airport logo appeared on the chest of the handball team’s jerseys in all local and foreign participations.
The authority sponsored the sixth Sharjah Human Resources Conference in February 2020.
Sharjah Airport sponsored the Arab Ladies Clubs Games Championship organized by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation at Sharjah Sports Club, with the participation of 78 clubs from 18 countries.
SAA sponsored the activities of the UAE Innovation Month in the emirate of Sharjah, which began on February 8 and continued until February 14, 2020.
Sharjah Airport Authority supported the Sharjah Light Festival 2020, organized by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
Sharjah Airport Authority supported the activities of “Sharjah World Book Capital”, whose activities spanned over a full year.
The authority sponsored the “Our Responsibility to Protect You” initiative of the Sharjah Volunteer Center.
Sharjah Airport Authority also sponsored the activities of the Big Heart Foundation, including supporting activities for refugees and needy people all over the world, and extended a helping hand to them.
The Authority sponsored the second Sharjah Kalba Arabian Horse Festival as an honorary sponsor, which is organized by the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, which confirms the Authority’s commitment to its policy of social responsibility and its continuing efforts to support all sectors and segments of society.