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ECONOMICS Last modified on August 8, 2019

Beyond borders

Irish airport operator, daa, has business interests across the globe courtesy of its wholly owned subsidiaries, writes daa International CEO, Nick Cole.

The daa Group is made up of four distinct businesses; Dublin Airport, Cork Airport, daa International and Aer Rianta International.

My company, daa International, is a wholly owned subsidiary of daa plc, whose parent company was founded in 1937 and counts the Irish state as its sole shareholder.

Although state-owned, daa operates under an entirely commercial mandate. In 2018, the daa Group had a turnover of almost €900 million and welcomed a total of 84 million passengers across the portfolio of airports it either owns, operates or has an equity stake in across the globe.

In terms of international revenue streams, Aer Rianta International (ARI) has an annual managed turnover in excess of $1 billion through its international airport retail network spanning Europe, the Middle East, India, North America, the Caribbean and New Zealand.

Formally established in 1988,  but with an airport duty free pedigree stretching back more than 65 years, ARI also holds a 20% stake in Düsseldorf Airport and has an 11% interest in Hermes Airports Ltd, operator of Larnaca and Paphos airports in Cyprus, arguably making it one of the best known names in the global arena.

In contrast, daa International is a relative newcomer to scene, having been established in 2013 to harness the skills inherent within the daa Group and make them available worldwide.

As owner-operators of Dublin and Cork airports, our knowledge is based on first-hand exposure to the specific demands and requirements of the aviation industry.

In essence, daa International is the key to delivery of daa Group’s corporate strategy through the diversification it provides as a significant source of unregulated income and geographic variation. It capitalises on the group’s core skills and relationships to extract value for daa.

We offer a suite of services to clients across the following categories:

1)   Advisory and consultancy services

2)   Management and concessions contracts

3)   Investments and partnerships

The daa International approach, to all projects, is to develop partnerships with our clients and key stakeholders. It adapts over 80 years of group experience to provide optimal and bespoke solutions to its clients.

Dublin and Cork airports and ARI have a history and reputation for being at the forefront of technology and innovation. We sell the experience and knowledge gained from the Group’s operations in 13 countries to allow clients to short-cut the learning process and expedite the introduction of technologies into their airports.

Daa International builds all the lessons learnt into the project plan to mitigate risks, potential pitfalls and project delays and overruns.

Specific initiatives developed by daa International include, ISO 55001 roadmap, self-service bag drop, transfer passenger processing, premium/general aviation services and logistics process mapping. While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides an overview of the range and breadth of experience possessed by daa Group and available to the market through daa International.

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Our experts allow daa International to provide advisory and consultancy services covering all aspects of airport operations from logistics to car parking to airside training. The company has completed projects across the world including the US, Middle East and Far East.

In February 2016, daa International signed the management contract for Terminal 5 at King Khalid International Airport (KKIA) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This contract sees daa International managing terminal operations, hard and soft FM contracts and acting as the master concessionaire.

Terminal 5, which is a domestic terminal at KKIA, has recorded impressive growth in the first three years of operation. Passenger numbers have increased from 13 million per annum in 2017 to 14.7 million in 2018, and look set to pass the 15 million mark this year.

A key tenant of daa International’s contract and approach to KKIA’s Terminal 5 is local knowledge transfer. We have a small management team based in Riyadh, supported by a 100% Saudi team of 90 people. Indeed, daa International has recruited, trained and developed this team of bright, talented and ambitious young Saudis.

And daa international has worked closely with our client, Riyadh Airports, to develop a series of bespoke training and development programmes, as developing Saudi talent is a key component of the country’s national Vision 2030 strategy.

One of the most significant changes that daa International has witnessed since it first held a presence in KSA is the role of women in both society and the workplace. In early 2016, women were only permitted to work in a small number of professions (none located in airports) and only if they were segregated from male members of the public.

However, we were keen to include women in our frontline operations team and, working with the authorities and our client, daa International is very proud that KKIA’s Terminal 5 was the first to introduce frontline female staff from late 2016.

Following on from that first pioneering step, airlines and concessionaires began recruiting women to their operational teams. In three short years, King Khalid International Airport has gone from zero Saudi female frontline staff to hundreds in roles ranging from check-in, ticket sales, lounges, retail, restaurants and cafés. The latest development will see four out of six of the newly recruited Terminal 5 operations supervisors being Saudi women.

All of these welcome developments culminated in the now annual, ‘Women in Aviation’ conference which is a collaboration between daa International and Dublin City University through Princess Noura University, Riyadh.

Elsewhere in the world, daa International is also currently advising Aboitiz InfraCapital in the Philippines on all operational aspects of Bohol-Panglao and Laguindingan airports.

As an example of a totally different type of advisory service, daa International has developed and delivered training and development programmes for all levels of airport personnel for airports in Oman, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

These bespoke programmes are developed in conjunction with the airport authority and are delivered by daa subject matter experts. Often training includes international visits to Dublin and Cork airports.

Through decades of operating Dublin and Cork airports, daa has the experience and expertise of operating both a large hub airport and a smaller regional airport.

Increasingly, the market is looking for international operators to invest in airports. This would be a new development for the business and is key to the medium/long-term growth of daa International. We are actively working on a number of potential airport investment opportunities and considering different consortia partners.

Our key geographic focus is the Middle East and particularly Saudi Arabia. In January 2019, daa International opened a regional office in the newly launched Riyadh Front business park. This demonstrates our firm commitment to growing the company’s Saudi Arabian operation beyond Terminal 5 in Riyadh.

The Far East is also a region of interest with governments looking to the market for international experience and in some instances, investment.

Perhaps not surprisingly, daa international intends to leverage the contacts and regional expertise of sister company ARI to enter other markets in which it has an established presence. This will see North America becoming a bigger focus area towards the end of 2019.

Increasingly, governments and public authorities are looking to airports as lucrative revenue streams. Key to this approach is the commercialisation of airport services and land.

The daa Group has a proven track record in developing and optimising commercial revenues. Since 2015, it has paid dividends of around €125 million to its Irish state shareholder. From daa International’s perspective, our commercial projects include developing commercial strategies, running tendering programmes and assuming the role as master concessionaire.

In addition to acting as master concessionaire for KKIA’s Terminal 5, daa International has led the recent project to in-source the car-parking operation in conjunction with its client Riyadh Airports.

And since taking over the operation in March 2019, the T5 car park has recorded record revenue through space optimisation and changes to the operation.

In this instance, daa International leveraged its extensive car-parking experience at both Dublin and Cork airports to drive the project. Car parking is a highly sophisticated product in both Dublin and Cork with the majority of business booked online, allowing for dynamic pricing and revenue maximisation.

This is the perfect example of how daa International uses the knowledge and experience of the parent company to deliver world-class solutions to its growing list of clients.

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