x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

‘World’s largest airport’ ready to welcome its first passengers in Dubai

Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International airport can officially welcome passengers from next month after it received the ok from UAE regulator the General Civil Aviation Authority.

Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central is capable of moving 160 million passengers a year. The airport has been hosting Dubai's airshows for years now. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central is capable of moving 160 million passengers a year. The airport has been hosting Dubai's airshows for years now. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters

Dubai’s new airport can officially welcome passengers from next month after it received the go-ahead from the General Civil Aviation Authority.

In a letter issued on Sunday, the regulator certified that Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central has met all of its requirements and is able to begin handling passengers from October 27, Dubai Airports said on Monday.

The news has long been expected, with the Saudi-based carrier Nasair and the Hungarian budget airline Wizzair ready to commence passenger services from the new airport in Dubai’s Jebel Ali district on that date.

The approval is the latest stage in opening what is expected to become the world’s largest airport, forming part of a massive new Dubai World Central residential, commercial and logistics complex.

The airport, which has been handling cargo flights since June 2010, is planned to ultimately comprise five runways and have capacity to move 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo per year.

In July, Dubai International Airport welcomed 5.3 million people through its gates, a 6.1 per cent increase on the same month the previous year as it strengthened its position as the world’s second-busiest airport for international travel after London Heathrow. During the same period passenger numbers at Heathrow rose 5.5 per cent to 6.9 million.

The passenger terminal at Dubai World Central, which was completed last year, will initially be able to handle 7 million passengers a year. It is expected to ultimately take over operations from the Dubai International.

“This is a welcomed and critical step forward in the process of preparing DWC for full passenger operations,” said Jamal Zaal, vice president of airside operations at Dubai Airports. “We will continue to press ahead with trials that test every system, process and piece of equipment in the new terminal, be it signage, gates or boarding procedures to make sure the new facility is ready to accept passengers on October 27.”

Dubai Airports said that before the opening, it plans to test the new terminal by asking some 1,000 members of the travelling public to identify areas for improvement in a test run.

Before that, employees will be testing the new facility early next month as a dress rehearsal for the public trials.

Dubai Airports said it had experienced overwhelming support from volunteers in its trial recruitment campaign, which was oversubscribed within 48 hours.

“The support from volunteers has been tremendous, which only goes to prove that in Dubai, people are passionate about aviation,” said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

DWC is also gearing up for additional flights taking place over 80 days from next May, when some scheduled passenger flights and all freighter, charter and general aviation flights are diverted from Dubai International to DWC so that the older airport can carry out essential engineering work on its runways.

lbarnard@thenational.ae