Record numbers of airline passengers touched down in Abu Dhabi and Dubai last month as the cities boosted their standing as international travel hubs. Dubai Airports saw a record 4.31 million passengers last month across the three airports it operates, a rise of 14.3 per cent, the company said. Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) announced a record 1,008,228 arrivals and departures last month, breaking the 1 million-a-month mark for the first time.
The airport operator, which owns Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain International Airport, saw an increase in passengers of 9.2 per cent over the same month in the previous year. "The traffic growth is a reflection of the interest Abu Dhabi is attracting from international markets and its strength as a connecting hub between the East and the West," said Ahmed al Haddabi, the senior vice president of airports operations at ADAC.
The two largest increases in traffic came from routes which connect the UAE with the US and the Philippines, Mr al Haddabi said. The statistics show Abu Dhabi's airports gaining large amounts of traffic during the global downturn, with 6.1 million passengers arriving and departing in the first seven months of this year. The airports saw 1 million fewer passengers for the same period in 2008, before the downturn began.
Cargo freight also soared, increasing 25.5 per cent to 197,845 tonnes in Dubai and 12.3 per cent to 36,755 tonnes in Abu Dhabi. "This is really a reflection of an increase in trade levels in the economy in general," said Kareem Murad, an aviation analyst at Shuaa Capital. "You're seeing the freight business increasing but don't forget that a lot of the industry experienced a drop in trade last year."
But Mr Murad said that against a difficult backdrop for the airline industry, an absolute rise in passenger numbers was noteworthy. "The industry has gone through very hard times, very tight margins and fuel costs have gone up," he said. "Ramadan came early … which might have had an impact on passenger numbers [this month]." The top five city destinations last month from Abu Dhabi were London, Bangkok, Cairo, Manila and Doha, which together accounted for almost a fifth of all passengers.