Flying high at Zayed International and encountering A Life Well Spent in Dubai

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What a week. Three airports (Hong Kong International, Changi, Zayed International) and counting (about to become four today at Dubai International) and a host of fond memories.

I flew out of Hong Kong International last Thursday to connect in Changi with my Etihad Airways flight into Abu Dhabi International Airport on 8 February.

That will go down in my personal history as the last time I flew into Abu Dhabi International Airport. Why? Not because I plan to avoid the gateway but because on 9 February at an admirably understated (in light of events in the region) ceremony, it was renamed Zayed International, in honour of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates.

I was privileged to attend what amounted to a handover, one graced by Abu Dhabi Airports Chairman of the Board of Directors Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan (pictured in grey below just after the opening ceremony). He was no doubt, rightly, a proud man to witness such a seminal day in the airport’s – and nation’s – history {you can read my full report here}.

The opening ceremony was notable for the stunning video below courtesy of SKYMAGIC, the world’s leading drone light show company, a multiple award-winning team of creatives, technologists and storytellers.

And what a story the film tells. The production dramatically reveals a three-dimensional A380 plane formed from 1,750 drones – yes, you read that right, 1,750 – on the North Runway to celebrate the airport’s rebranding.

It shows the sublimely beautiful and evocative transformation of the falcon-shaped collection of drones into Etihad Flight 09. This is NOT artificial intelligence. The drone show actually took place.

{Video: SkyMagic}

Once again I was able to spend time with Abu Dhabi Airports leadership, including Abu Dhabi Airports Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Elena Sorlini (recently confirmed to that role on a permanent basis thanks to her outstanding leadership over recent times in the run-up to the airport opening).

Abu Dhabi Airports Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Elena Sorlini addresses guests at the inauguration of the newly named Zayed International {Photos: Martin Moodie}
It was nice to catch up again with Elena Sorlini and offer my congratulations on her confirmed appointment as Abu Dhabi Airports Managing Director and CEO. (Right) Elena proves as adept at the wheel as she is running this great airport.

Now I’m pressing ahead with my own digital production. No drones (apart from the video) above but a full-scale multi-media eZine about this modern-day wonder of the airport world.

A string quartet put on a series of performances from 9 to 11 February to celebrate the rebranding. Here they are performing landside against the stunning Sana Al-Nour, one of the Middle East’s largest indoor art works. Note the new Zayed International Airport identity just behind them {Photo: Martin Moodie}.

As I write, I am in Dubai, where I had the welcome opportunity this week to catch up with another outstanding business leader – Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin,

Colm is still going strong at 80 years of age, precisely half of which have been spent leading Dubai Duty Free from a fledgling start-up to the retailing tour de force it is today. All in all, counting his time at Shannon Duty Free in Ireland, he has devoted almost 55 years to our industry.

Receiving my own signed copy of A Life Well Spent from the subject himself

The story of those years – and those that went before – is brilliantly captured in A Life Well Spent, Colm’s newly published biography written by Graeme Wilson. I have made significant and enjoyable headway into this 486-page tome, beautifully published in hardback. Colm’s business life has been well documented – including, very often, by me – but like all good biographies this one reveals plenty you didn’t know.

As Graeme Wilson puts it: “This is the story of an astonishing journey, of a voracious passion for life, and the defining moments of an existence that has, indeed, been a life well spent.”

Colm McLoughlin (right) launches the biography with author Graeme Wilson (left), accompanied by Breeda McLoughlin (back second left), Dubai Duty Free Senior Vice President Marketing Sinead El Sibai and Dubai Duty Free ambassadors