x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai airport flies up global ranking

After a bumper month of passenger traffic in July, Dubai Airports hopes to surpass Hong Kong as the third-busiest airport in the world.

About 4.72 million passengers boarded flights to and from Dubai last month. Amy Leang / The National
About 4.72 million passengers boarded flights to and from Dubai last month. Amy Leang / The National

Dubai is closing in on Hong Kong as the world's third-busiest airport this year after a surge in summer travellers.

About 4.72 million passengers boarded flights to and from Dubai last month, the company said. The gain of 417,000 reflected a 9.3 per cent increase on the same period a year earlier.

The rapid growth of Dubai's airport came as a result of its growing attractiveness as a tourism and business hub, alongside its ability to capture stopover traffic between East and West, said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

"Dubai International is currently ranked as the fourth-busiest airport worldwide for international passenger traffic," Mr Griffiths said. "However, we are hot on the heels of Hong Kong International, and aspire to take over the number three spot by the end of the year.

"This latest milestone further illustrates Dubai International's emergence as a preeminent global hub. Not only did we set a new record, we surpassed the previous high point by over 400,000 passengers."

Traffic grew fastest among routes to and from the Gulf, North America, eastern Europe and South America.

However, air freight volumes during the month slipped 2.7 per cent to 192,538 tonnes of cargo. London Heathrow is the world's top airport for passenger numbers, with annual traffic of 63.1 million last year, followed by Paris Charles de Gaulle, according to the Airports Council International.

The Airport Authority Hong Kong said it handled 5 million passengers last month, a 5.7 per cent increase on the same period a year earlier and less than 300,000 above Dubai International's total.

Kareem Murad, a transport and logistics analyst at Shuaa Capital, said that overtaking Hong Kong was "potentially within reach", given the shrinking difference in passenger numbers.

Vincent Resillot, an aviation analyst at Credit Suisse, said Dubai International's ambitions to overtake Hong Kong were realistic, albeit more likely in the next decade than in the next three months.

"Definitely, they've enough capacity for Dubai International to be a bigger airport than Hong Kong," he said.

"They have significant unutilised capacity at the moment … they have the potential for sure, in terms of infrastructure."

Dubai International has so far experienced little slowdown in its growth of passenger numbers after Dubai World Central in Jebel Ali opened for cargo flights in June last year and for general aviation last April.

Nor have soaring prices of crude oil and fuel surcharges proven much impediment to increased passenger growth. At US$111.27 per contract, Brent crude futures were 49.22 per cent higher last month compared with the same month a year earlier.

Amid a strong set of passenger numbers for the region's biggest airport, Middle Eastern carriers are also predicted to increase their market share. Traffic for Middle Eastern airlines is expected to increase by 14.6 per cent this year, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association released in June.

ghunter@thenational.ae