x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE in top six for air travel growth in November

Dubai and Abu Dhabi record double-digit growth in a year as budget carrier flydubai sees one of the fastest growth surges of any airline in history.

Airline passengers walk between rows of duty free shops in Dubai's Terminal 3.
Airline passengers walk between rows of duty free shops in Dubai's Terminal 3.

The UAE recorded one of the six fastest growth rates for air travel in November as Middle East passenger volumes surpassed levels preceding the global economic crisis, the Airports Council International (ACI) says.

The Emirates, Russia, India, Egypt, Brazil and South Korea had the strongest growth, including a 16 per cent rise in Dubai's numbers compared with November 2009.

Abu Dhabi also posted double-digit growth in passenger numbers that month, with 949,000 travellers passing through the international airport, a gain of 15 per cent from November 2009.

Apart from the country growth, there were also notable results from individual airports in the region. Muscat International Airport registered the world's fastest growth in international passenger numbers in November, up 29.5 per cent compared with November 2009. Cairo was third in the world, with 23.5 per cent growth.

Worldwide, the biggest losers for the period were Athens, London Stansted, Tokyo Narita and Mexico City, the ACI said.

While the results are still being analysed, last year is likely to show record numbers for air travel, suggesting airlines have finally moved beyond the global downturn.

Angela Gittens, the director general of the ACI, a worldwide association of airports based in Montreal, said: "2010 will set a new record for global airport industry traffic with total passenger growth nearing 7 per cent for the past 12 months."

Traffic in the Middle East grew 13 per cent in November last year over November 2009, the ACI said. That result appears to underscore the region's economic recovery.

In the UAE, local airlines opened a number of routes and increased flight frequencies in the period studied by the ACI.

The budget carrier flydubai added more than a dozen destinations in the period, going through one of the fastest growth surges of any airline in history since its launch in June 2009. It now flies to 29 cities from Dubai International Airport's Terminal 2.

Also fuelling Dubai's traffic growth was Emirates Airline, which last year received 11 new aircraft: three Boeing 777-300ERs and eight Airbus A380-800 superjumbos.

In Ras al Khaimah, RAK Airways relaunched in October after a hiatus of nearly two years.

In another sign of the recovery of the global economy, cargo volumes grew in all regions last year, the ACI said.

"Freight growth was exceptional in 2010 and despite a marked slowdown in the second semester," the ACI said. "The overall increase of close to 18 per cent more than compensates for the 8 per cent drop in 2009."

"The divergence among the regions is less pronounced than in the passenger sector, as all regions enjoyed double-digit growth earlier in the year."

But the ACI warned that the growth of cargo volumes slowed in the Middle East last year after dramatic earlier gains. "The hitherto very robustly growing regions Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific are in consolidation mode as their freight volumes surged during the reference period at the end of 2009," the council said. "Growth stagnated in Singapore and Dubai."

Europe and North America have still not matched the travel volumes recorded before the global downturn, the ACI said.

"Nonetheless, Europe appears to be on track to becoming the largest traffic region in 2010 for the first time ever, moving ahead of the North America market," it said.

igale@thenational.ae