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Dubai International Airport Celebrates its 58th Birthday and a Very Impressive History

Dubai International Airport Celebrates its 58th Birthday and a Very Impressive History

Dubai International Airport Celebrates its 58th Birthday and a Very Impressive History

Yet another claim by Yemen’s Houthi rebels of a successful military drone attack on Dubai’s main international airport, DXB hasn’t succeeded in stopping officials from celebrating the airport’s 58th birthday today.  In a statement, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was once again forced to deny media claims made by the Houthi’s, saying that operations at what is one of the busiest airlines in the world, were running normally.

Rewind 58 years to the 30th September 1960 and Dubai was celebrating the grand opening of its very first and very small terminal building.  At the time, the airport didn’t even have a proper tarmac runway – instead, relying on a 1,800-foot-long compacted sand runway.

Before the terminal building was constructed, the city had relied on seaplanes to connect Dubai with the rest of the world – Imperial Airlines used to use Dubai Creek to land its ‘Flying Boat’ in the city

How times have changed.

In it’s near 60-year history, the airport has welcomed something in the region of 974,461,000 passengers.  Last year, Dubai International Airport saw over 88 million passengers walk its floors – the figure makes DXB the busiest airport in the world for international passengers.

In terms of overall passenger traffic, Dubai comes in third place – pipped by Beijing Capital International Airport which welcomed 96 million passengers and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which has long held the number 1 busiest airport title with a whopping 104 million passengers in 2017.

In it's first few years of operation, DXB could handle a few thousand passengers a year, using am 1,800-foot long sand runway. Photo Credit Dubai Airports
In it’s first few years of operation, DXB could handle a few thousand passengers a year, using a 1,800-foot long sand runway. Photo Credit Dubai Airports
By 1974, DXB's passenger numbers had reached 1 million in a single year. Photo Credit: Dubai International Airport
By 1974, DXB’s passenger numbers had reached 1 million in a single year. Photo Credit: Dubai International Airport
Terminal 1 opened in 2000, enabling the airport to more than double passenger traffic to 23 million per year. Photo Credit: Dubai Airports
Terminal 1 opened in 2000, enabling the airport to more than double passenger traffic to 23 million per year. Photo Credit: Dubai Airports
2008 - the Terminal 3 building boosted the airport’s capacity to 60 million passengers. Photo Credit: Dubai Airports
2008 – the Terminal 3 building boosted the airport’s capacity to 60 million passengers. Photo Credit: Dubai Airports

But DXB is snapping at their heels – this year, the airport operator says passenger numbers will be “just shy” of 90 million, while the airport’s ambitious strategic vision is to hit 98.5 million passengers by 2020.  Dubai’s growth as a hub between East and West certainly helps – Over two-thirds of the world’s population lives within an 8-hour flight of DXB, making the airport the ideal hub to connect.

Yet DXB’s unrelenting growth is being held back by capacity constraints – the two-runway airport has no room to expand, hemmed in on all sides by the sprawling city.  Even recent multi-billionaire dollar projects like the new Concourse D will only go some way to add capacity.

With DXB’s impressive growth slowing and a new age of ultra-long-haul flights threatening Dubai’s hub airport model, 2020 could see another problem – the airport has to close one of its two runways for 45-days.  Officials say the closure is desperately needed for essential repairs but airlines, including Emirates, have been forced to adjust their schedules in what the airport calls a seasonally low period.

Then there’s the question of Dubai World Central – the huge new airport project which is expected to one day replace DXB.  When that might happen, however, is still anyone’s guess.

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