Dubai World Central airport could finally open to commercial passenger flights by next year, Dubai Airports said yesterday.
Cargo operations at Dubai's newest airport started in the summer of 2010.
But the launch of its passenger operations have been pushed back since then, as Dubai Airports focuses on the expansion of Dubai International Airport, the emirate's main aviation hub.
The Dubai World Central airport is intended to eventually become home to Emirates Airline's operations and handle 160 million passengers.
"Operational trials for Dubai World Central's passenger terminal are set to start during the second quarter of this year and we could see commercial passenger operations commence in 2013," said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.
"It's clear Dubai World Central will play a pivotal role in providing the capacity needed to accommodate projected growth. In terms of cargo, the need is more immediate.
"As for passenger operations, Dubai International will continue to serve as the primary focus of expansion."
Dubai International last year announced a US$7.8 billion (Dh28.65bn) expansion plan, as it aims to increase its capacity from 60 million passengers to 90 million by 2018.
Last year, Dubai World Central's average monthly air cargo volume reached 7,477 tonnes compared with 795 tonnes each month during the airport's first half-year of operations in 2010, according to Dubai Airports.
Aircraft movements for the year totalled 8,198, of which 44 per cent were commercial cargo flights, while 55.5 per cent were test and training flights and 0.5 per cent were general aviation.
By 2015, cargo volumes in the emirate are projected to reach three million tonnes, exceeding the current capacity of Dubai International, Dubai Airports said.
"It's clear that the airport's development Ö is being managed stage by stage so as not to dent growth at Dubai International Airport, but rather to complement its growth by acting as additional capacity," said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.