As passenger traffic recovers to exceed pre-pandemic levels, Dubai is moving on with plans to replace the busiest airport in the world with an even larger one, a top official told AFP on Wednesday.
The CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, stated that plans were being developed for Al Maktoum International Airport, which is expected to replace Dubai International in the 2030s and be constructed outside the city.
At the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates, where airlines have made significant investments in brand-new aircraft, he was giving a speech. Plans for a significant new aviation hub in Riyadh were revealed by neighboring Saudi Arabia last year.
“Once we’ve reached about 120 million (passengers a year), which is what we think our total capacity at DXB (Dubai International) is at the absolute maximum with everything optimised, we are going to need a new airport,” Griffiths said.
“That is going to have to happen at some stage during the 2030s. We’re going to be working on those designs over the next few months.
“So the trajectory is good. The confidence in the industry remains high.”
Griffiths was speaking as fresh data predicted that Dubai International will see 86.9 million passengers this year, exceeding 2019 traffic and highlighting the pandemic’s comeback.
The Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza has not had an impact on passenger numbers, despite predictions that it will negatively impact local industries, particularly tourism.
He added: “We always knew when the pandemic struck, there’d be an equal and strong recovery because people under lockdown for two years were denied the ability to travel. And so that’s why we’ve bounced back so quickly.”
One of the first major transport hubs to reopen was Dubai Airport, which had temporarily suspended commercial flights due to the epidemic from March to July 2020. It carried 86 million passengers in 2019 but only 25.9 million in 2020.
Griffiths stated that the new airport has no defined cost or capacity and that it will be built modularly rather than around terminals, allowing for easy expansion over time.
“It stands to reason that Al Maktoum International has to be even bigger and even better (than Dubai International),” he said, calling it the “airport of the future”.
“This will be a project that extends way into the 2050s, because we take the long-term view here.”