x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Passenger growth slows to 9%

Passenger growth at Dubai International Airport slows to 9 per cent last year, compared with 19 per cent a year earlier.

Passenger growth at Dubai International Airport slowed to 9 per cent last year, compared with 19 per cent a year earlier, according to the latest figures from the emirate's tourism authority. The drop in travellers arriving, departing and waiting in transit at the airport reflects the global slowdown in the tourism industry.

A total of 37.44 million people passed through Dubai airport last year, most travelling to or from London's Heathrow Airport. That route saw 1.74 million passengers go through Dubai airport last year, compared with 1.66 million in 2007, said the report, released by Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) today. Doha came in second last year with a total of 1.28 million travellers, up from 1.2 million in 2007. Mumbai was third with 1.2 million travellers.

On a global level, airport traffic has dropped sharply since the crisis. International passenger demand fell by 5.6 per cent in January compared with the same month last year, a recent report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said. It was also a full percentage point worse than the 4.6 per cent year-on-year drop recorded in December. The January fall in demand is the fifth consecutive month of decline, IATA said.

But the Middle East was the only region with traffic growth, which was 3.1 per cent in January. This is still far below the double-digit traffic growth last year and the 10.8 per cent expansion in capacity in airports across the Middle East. "Alarm bells are ringing everywhere," said Giovanni Bisignani, the chief executive of IATA. "Aside from the Middle East carriers, passenger demand is falling in all regions. The industry is in a global crisis and we have not yet seen the bottom."

Despite the slower traffic, Dubai will press ahead with its expansion plans to support the DTCM's target of doubling tourist numbers to 15 million by 2015. Dubai's first low-cost airline, flydubai, has announced it will operate from Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport when it starts operating this year. The terminal's redevelopment in preparation for the airline's launch is well under way, with phase one almost finished, the company said today.

"As a low-cost airline, flydubai will focus firmly on providing the very best value to our customers in a modern and convenient international environment," the airline's chief executive, said Ghaith al Ghaith, the airline's chief executive. The airline aims to capitalise on the region's growing budget travel sector and serve the large expatriate population by giving people the chance to fly more often.

Its operations team is finalising routes, which are likely to include India, north and east Africa, south-east Europe and the Middle East, given the positive traffic figures from those regions. Last year saw Dubai Airports Company unveil a multibillion-dirham terminal and concourse for Emirates Airline, which is based there, giving it a capacity of 60 million passengers a year. And construction is continuing on an even larger airport in Jebel Ali, called Al Maktoum International. abakr@thenational.ae