Dubai is planning to open at Al Maktoum International Airport by 2020 a passenger terminal capable of handing 80 million passengers a year.
The terminal in Jebel Ali could mark the beginning of a migration of more than 130 airlines that currently serve Dubai's existing air hub, Dubai International Airport in Deira.
Rashed Bu Qara'a, the chief operating officer of Dubai World Central, the master developer behind Al Maktoum International, said his company could spend several years planning the next phase of Al Maktoum airport before proceeding with the project.
The airport entered service last year with the inauguration of cargo flights. This will be followed by business aviation, and commercial passenger flights are to begin next year. "The second phase is being designed now. After design, we will start the next phase … an 80 million passenger [a year] terminal," Mr Bu Qara'a said at an economics workshop in Dubai on the "aerotropolis" concept of cities built around airports.
The second phase would also include a cargo-handling capability of 10 million tonnes a year. By contrast, under phase one, Al Maktoum International was designed to handle 250,000 tonnes of cargo and 5 million passengers a year.
The new airport is the centrepiece of the US$33 billion (Dh121.1bn) Dubai World Central master development, which is intended to establish Dubai as one of the world's most important centres of trade, logistics and commerce. In addition to five runways and millions of square metres of terminals and warehouses, Dubai World Central's plans include residential and office space, manufacturing zones and golf courses.
Until the next phase proceeds, much of Dubai's aviation industry will be concentrated around Dubai International.
Dubai Airports, the operator of the emirate's civil aviation assets, is investing heavily in Dubai International to maximise its efficiency and make way for continued growth through the decade. The operator believes Dubai International's growth rates will make it the world's top airport for international passenger traffic by 2015 and take it to 98.5 million passengers annually by 2020.