x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai International on course to challenge Chicago and Tokyo as airport hub

Dubai International expects to handle more than 70 million passengers this year, challenging global hubs from Chicago to Tokyo.

A model of the Al Maktoum International Airport at the Dubai World Central is on display at the Airport Show 2014. Duncan Chard for the National
A model of the Al Maktoum International Airport at the Dubai World Central is on display at the Airport Show 2014. Duncan Chard for the National

Dubai International Airport expects to handle more than 70 million passengers this year, challenging global hubs from Chicago to Tokyo.

The prediction from the chief of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority comes despite an 80-day runway closure.

“I don’t think that we will see less than 70 million plus this year for Dubai International Airport … I think the growth will be there,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and the chairman of Emirates Airline.

“The closure of the runway doesn’t mean that we will do less than what we did last year,” he said on the sidelines of the Airport Show in Dubai.

Dubai overtook Heathrow in international passenger numbers by more than 2 million passengers in the first quarter of this year.

Heathrow is currently the world’s third largest airport for international and domestic traffic, with 72 million passengers passing through annually, according to a recent report from the Airports Council International.

But Dubai is likely to beat this total sooner than previously anticipated, as capacity constraints at Heathrow limit the British airport’s room to grow.

Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports, last week criticised the London mayor Boris Johnson for his refusal to support construction of a third runway at Heathrow.

Responding to Mr Griffiths’ remarks, Daniel Moylan, an adviser to Mr Johnson, said: “The mayor entirely shares Mr Griffiths’ frustration at the inertia in UK Government airports policy … But as Dubai shows, the right answer is for London to have a major hub airport connecting it to the whole world, not to add a runway here and a runway there.

“Heathrow is too constrained to be the large airport we need so we need to look elsewhere and we need to get on with it. It’s not complicated.”

About 66.43 million passengers passed through Dubai International in 2013, up 15.2 per cent from 2012. In March alone, 6.29 million passengers passed through it.

Dubai World Central (DWC), which is expected to eventually become the city’s main airport early in the next decade, is also predicting a sharp increase in capacity.

Khalifa Al Zaffin, the executive chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said: “[For] the first phase of [Dubai World Central], we are looking at about 130 million plus [passengers]. For the ultimate phase we are looking at 220 million passengers.”

He said that the first phase is likely to be completed in 2024.

DWC, which opened in October, will have five runways. The passenger terminal will initially be able to handle 7 million passengers a year. A number of airlines, including the low- cost carrier flydubai, have already moved their operations to DWC.

Ongoing runway repairs at Dubai International Airport are scheduled until July 20.

Emirates Airline, the airport’s biggest operator, said it would take a Dh1 billion hit to its revenues during the repairs. The carrier plans to ground 20 aircraft this month and 22 in June and July.

“I think the traffic will come back. A lot of people in the system are booking,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

Emirates reported last week a 43 per cent increase in profit in 2013 as it added more passengers and fuel prices fell. Emirates’ net profit was Dh3.3 billion compared with Dh2.3bn in 2012. The airline carried 44.5 million passengers during the year, up 13 per cent from 2012. Emirates revenues grew 13 per cent to Dh82.6bn during the period.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

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