Dubai intends to replace DXB with a mega-airport as passenger volume surpasses expectations

The head of Dubai Airports said that within the coming months, they will be developing the architectural features of a new airport.

As passenger demand continues to expand at an exponential rate, Dubai Airports wants to replace the busiest airport in the world, Dubai International (DXB), with an even larger one, its chief executive officer Paul Griffiths announced on Wednesday during the ongoing Dubai Airshow 2023.

"We will require a new airport once we reach approximately 120 million passengers annually, which is our estimate of when DXB (Dubai International)'s total capacity is at its highest point when everything is optimized. That will need to occur somewhere in the 2030s, according to Griffiths, who spoke to AFP.

This is in line with Dubai Airports' projection that DXB will see 86.8 million passengers year, exceeding 2019 estimates as record-breaking numbers were anticipated to persist into the last quarter of 2023.

The DXB can currently handle 100 million passengers annually, but with the help of new technology, renovations, and more effective use of available space and resources, it may be able to handle 120 million.

Over the next three months, Griffiths stated, they will be working on the design components of the mega-airport.

It makes sense that Al Maktoum International ought to be much bigger and better (than Dubai International)," he remarked. Since we are taking the long view on this project, it will last well into the 2050s."

Since those under lockdown for two years were unable to travel, we always anticipated that there would be an equal and robust recovery when the epidemic struck. We've recovered so swiftly because of this, he told AFP.

He did not, however, provide information about the new airport's cost or capacity goal. He went on to say, nevertheless, that the new airport will be built modularly rather than around terminals, which will facilitate future expansion.

"We do not intend to build a terminal-based airport. We intend to fundamentally alter the way airports operate, making them significantly more personalized and eliminating all of the antiquated procedures that we have been forcing our patrons to endure for far too long," he continued.

Surpassing projections

The largest hub in the world, DXB, saw 22.9 million passengers in the third quarter, the most since 2019. This brought the overall year-to-date traffic for the first nine months of the year to 64.5 million passengers. This represents a 1.0% increase over 2019 and a 39.3% increase over the same period in 2022.

The UAE's aviation industry has been growing at an exponential rate as a result of the pandemic's effective management, as confidence in the nation's leadership, economy, and skills has significantly increased.

In the first nine months of 2023, Dubai's tourist industry had record levels of foreign visitors—12.45 million—up 23% year over year and surpassing the previous high of 12.08 million visitors set in 2019.

Griffiths stated that while they are excited, they are not wholly taken aback by the fact that DXB is expected to reach the pre-pandemic milestone nearly a year ahead of schedule. "We continue to have high hopes for the rest of this year and the upcoming one. Together with our strategic partners, we're up for the task of consistently exceeding visitor satisfaction in the face of an ongoing traffic spike.

Top destinations

With 8.9 million passengers in the first nine months of the year, India was DXB's most popular country destination in terms of traffic volume. Saudi Arabia and the UK came in second and third, respectively, with 4.8 and 4.4 million passengers. Notable other national destinations are the US (2.7 million), Russia (1.8 million), and Pakistan (3.1 million). London (2.7 million) and Riyadh (1.9 million) were the most trafficked cities, closely followed by Mumbai (1.8 million) and Jeddah (1.7 million).

In 2023, the airport handled 57.5 million bags total, with a success percentage of 99.8%, or 2.5 bags that were handled incorrectly for every 1,000 passengers. Ninety-one percent of the luggage was delivered to the visitors within 45 minutes of their arrival. The amount of baggage at Dubai International in 2023 is 106.07 percent of the amount in 2019.

96.4 percent of arriving passengers spent an average of less than 11 minutes in line at passport control, while 95.1% of passengers waited less than six minutes in line at leaving passport control.

For 98.4% of all passengers, the average wait time at the security checkpoint during departures was less than four minutes, the airline stated in a statement on Wednesday.

In the third quarter of this year, cargo increased by 12.3% year over year to 446,400 tonnes.

In the first nine months of the year, it registered 1.3 million tonnes of cargo, indicating a little decrease of less than 1%.

Q3 saw a 5.1% increase in flight movements to 106,000. Between January and September, it handled 308,000 flight movements in total, a 25.2% increase over the previous year.

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