In 2014, Dubai International Airport (DXB) overtook Heathrow Airport in West London as the worlds busiest airport for international passengers – and has left Heathrow for dust ever since. Last year, the airport welcomed 88.2 million passengers – that’s over 10 million more passengers than Heathrow managed.
Retaining the record for the fourth consecutive year, Dubai Airport’s chief executive, Paul Griffiths expects traffic to grow yet again in 2018 – with predictions putting passenger numbers at around 90.3 million by the end of the year.
While the performance looks good, it fell below what executives at the airport had been hoping for. According to an analysis by Reuters, last year’s 5.5% growth was the slowest since 2009 during the last financial crisis. They cited a number of reasons for the lacklustre growth including low oil prices causing financial stress in the region.
But Griffiths is remaining upbeat – he expects Dubai International Airport to see significant passenger growth from the developing relationship between Emirates and the low-cost airline, flydubai. Last year, the two airlines announced a “significant partnership” which is set to be expanded even further this year.
The two airline’s had even considered co-locating operations at Terminal 3 but that plan had to be put on ice after a study concluded the plan wouldn’t be feasible. Instead, some flydubai services might move to Terminal 3 with the remaining staying at Terminal 2.
There are a number of ways to measure what can be considered as the “world’s busiest airport”. While DXB is number one for the international passengers, it’s still beaten in terms of overall passenger numbers by Beijing Capital International which handled 95.8 million passengers and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International which handled a staggering 103.9 million last year.
With limited capacity and room for expansion at its current location, Griffiths says he hopes the airport will be able to handle 118 million passengers in the next few years – although that is likely to be the airport’s absolute limit.
India proved to be the most popular destination for passengers travelling through DXB in 2017 – the airport handled 12,060,435 passengers flying to or from the country. Meanwhile, London was the top destination city – 4,011,598 passengers flew to or from the British capital last year.
Meanwhile, growth at the airport was helped by a relaxation of visa restrictions on Russian and Chinese citizens by the UAE authorities. Russian passenger figures surged 28% last year while Chinese passenger numbers rose by over 19%.