• Danita Waterfall-Brizzi

Dubai Airshow 2021 Breaks Previous Records

As an attending delegate of the UAE’s hyper-extravagant biennial aviation exhibition, Senior Logistics Consultant at Hospitio Consulting & Services, Danita Waterfall-Brizzi shared her impressions with CargoForwarder Global.

A “rapid fire, high intensity, high-value event” was how one of the moderators introduced the Dubai Airshow 2021, and this summary was certainly felt across the board. After a long exhibition pause of almost two years, and despite the worst crisis the aviation industry has ever seen, 1288 exhibitors from 148 countries rolled out their latest products and innovations, including a total of 161 aircraft on static display. More than 104,000 people attended the 17th edition of the Dubai Airshow which ran from 14-18NOV21. All told, it was a very lucrative affair with a record USD 78 billion in commercial and defense contracts being signed over the course of the show.

A show of strength There were many debuts at the show, which has both a commercial as well as a strong military focus. It was the first time that the Indian and Saudi Air Forces displayed, and the Russian Air Force’s latest fighter jets performed aerobatics and in their new Russian colors, rather than the usual military browns.

It was also the first time that the audience got to witness a magnificent, graceful, and incredibly quiet Boeing eagle soaring above - the new Boeing777X, while Airbus booked its first A350F orders at the show. Both plane makers saw a number of cargo order signings throughout the course of the event.

As a special guest, Apollo 16 Astronaut, Charlie Duke, attended, flanked by the new UAE astronauts, as well as Mrs Duke who had played her part as a life-long supporter behind the scenes for all those men. Israel premier Israel exhibited for the first time, with a huge Israeli pavilion and defense stand. This was a show of solidarity and a result of the 2020 Abraham Accord. The Israel Aerospace Industries signed an agreement to convert B777-300ER passenger aircraft to cargo configurations for Emirates at the show, building on similar partnerships already with Etihad, for example. Sustainability and gender efforts The Cargo Connect moderators and panels made a worthy effort to address the hottest topics, though here the audience was a bit thin. It was positive to see that all the conference forums (except for Cargo Connect) had at least one woman on the panels. One of the larger topics was Sustainability, with the message that the industry has to walk the talk both with regard to environmental as well as socially responsible issues, and that this needs to include all segments of the supply chain, and particularly the customers. We have a shared responsibility. Air cargo is here to stay On the whole, there was a good cross section of airlines, freight forwarders, consultants like us - Hospitio Consulting & Services, government officials, and operational product providers. It was also underlined that air cargo is here to stay and that it is still on the rise. Summarizing the discussions, it was clear that the best businesses are those that endeavor to find new and improved ways to work in the new normal. It is important to create strategies, plans, grow both the existing base and gain new customers, engage operations, improve customer experience, invest in new tech platforms, and most importantly, to ensure top down and bottom-up buy-in. The invention of the young Growing eCommerce was and also will be key for all entities as a solid revenue stream. Yet, there was also talk of industry blockers to digitalization; many leaders in many parts of the industry and the globe are not familiar and comfortable with this "next gen’s invention."


Nevertheless, the opportunities that digital provides are almost infinite. It can support in the ever-growing complexity that is capacity forecasting. What was "descriptive" analytics, is now "prescriptive" since one must consider so many new details/components to the formula; and there is no one size fits all. Digitalization is here to stay, too. Desire, investment, accountability, mindset, leadership, clear values, customer centricity – these were all the elements voiced that are necessary for successful change management in air cargo companies looking to move with the times.

That the Dubai Airshow 2021 was able to break all its previous records, is a very positive sign for the industry, and it will be interesting to see how one of the world’s largest airshows fares in 2023. Danita Waterfall-Brizzi - d.waterfall-brizzi@hospitio.com

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