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DXB to grow to ‘absolute maximum’ ahead of airlines’ move

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths Dubai Airports
'We have to create an airport big enough at DWC to move, lock, stock and barrel the operation from DXB,' says Dubai Airports' Paul Griffiths
  • Dubai Airports CEO interview
  • ‘World’s biggest transition’ planned
  • Emirates, Flydubai to shift fleets
  • DWC and DXB expanding

Dubai International Airport is to be expanded “to its absolute maximum” in the next few years, its operator has told AGBI, so there is time to prepare the city’s second airport for the arrival of Emirates’ and Flydubai’s entire fleets.

Dubai Airports’ CEO, Paul Griffiths, added that the development plans for Al Maktoum International (DWC) airport would have to be revised to accommodate the two carriers – particularly as both announced jet orders at this week’s Dubai Airshow.

“The important thing is we need the time to be able to develop the new airport, get it up and running and then manage the transition, which will be the world’s biggest transition, from DXB [Dubai International] to DWC.

“No one will have done an airport transition of that scale.”

Between them, Emirates and Flydubai have agreed to buy 120 wide-body aircraft. Deliveries are scheduled to start from 2025 and run through to 2030.

“There’s no way we’d be able to produce an airport large enough to be able to migrate the operations from DXB to DWC in anything like the timing that would suit those aircraft deliveries,” Griffiths said.

Emirates operates a fleet of 249 passenger aircraft and 11 freighters, with 290 planes on order. Flydubai has 80 aircraft and ordered 30 more this week.

“Splitting the hub is never going to work and we have to create an airport big enough at DWC to be able to move, lock, stock and barrel the entire operation from DXB,” he added.

Al Maktoum, 37km southwest of Dubai, opened in 2010. A $33 billion expansion plan was unveiled in 2014 to increase its size in stages, building up DWC to an annual capacity of more than 250 million passengers.

DXB terminal 3 Dubai International AirportDubai Airports
Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. Annual traffic at DXB is forecast to reach 86.8m this year
Ramped up

Those expansion plans are being ramped up again, according to reports earlier this year.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of both Emirates and Flydubai, said on Tuesday that an announcement on the airport would be made “very soon”.

In the meantime, however, Griffiths said the focus would be on increasing DXB’s capacity, using technology to speed up check-in, security and immigration.

Dubai Airports forecasts that annual passenger traffic at DXB will reach 86.8 million this year.

Total traffic for the first nine months of the year was 64.5 million passengers, up almost 40 percent compared to the same period in 2022 and 1 percent above the pre-pandemic 2019 figure.

Griffiths said the annual total for DXB could rise to 120 million travellers “without feeling too much pain, with a modest amount of investment”.

However, he has ruled out the creation of another “mega-hub” airport for Dubai, preferring a more personal experience for passengers.

“The designs we’re looking at for Al Maktoum International are a series of self-contained but connected concourses.”

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