Abu Dhabi Airports passenger numbers exceed forecasts, tripling to 15.9 million in 2022

Passenger traffic in 2023 will surpass last year's levels as international visitors flock to the UAE capital for major events, including Cop28, chief executive says

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Passenger traffic across Abu Dhabi's five airports exceeded annual forecasts and tripled in 2022 from the previous year, amid a broad recovery in leisure and business travel from the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 15.9 million passengers used Abu Dhabi International, Al Ain International, Al Bateen Executive, Delma Island and Sir Bani Yas Island airports, up 202 per cent from the 5.26 million passengers in 2021, Abu Dhabi Airports said in a statement.

It said 2022 was “a remarkable year for Abu Dhabi in passenger traffic terms”.

“It illustrates the emirate’s vast potential as an attractive destination to visit, live and work in,” Jamal Al Dhaheri, managing director and chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports, said.

The growth comes as Abu Dhabi International Airport attracted new airline customers last year. Meanwhile, its home carrier Etihad Airways launched new routes, boosted flight frequencies and resumed destinations suspended during the pandemic in response to a robust rebound in travel demand.

Middle Eastern airlines recorded a 157.4 per cent year-on-year rise in passenger traffic in 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Capacity increased 73.8 per cent, while load factor climbed 24.6 percentage points to 75.8 per cent. Travel demand in December climbed 69.8 per cent compared to the same month in 2021.

Globally, airline passenger traffic in 2022 rose 64.4 per cent compared to 2021, Iata said. Last year's passenger volumes reached 68.5 per cent of 2019 levels. In December, total passenger traffic globally rose 39.7 per cent compared to December 2021 and reached 76.9 per cent of its December 2019 level.

A total of 4.78 million passengers travelled through Abu Dhabi's five hubs in the fourth quarter of 2022, nearly double the 2.43 million passengers in the same quarter of 2021.

The top five source markets were London, Mumbai, Delhi, Cairo and Kochi.

Abu Dhabi International Airport served more than 100 destinations and has a network of 28 airlines as of December 2022.

The state-owned airport operator expects the number of passengers through the five airports this year to surpass last year's total tally as the UAE hosts a number of major global events.

Abu Dhabi Airports did not provide a 2023 forecast for passenger numbers.

“Looking ahead, we are working towards readiness to accommodate even greater passenger traffic in 2023, which we anticipate, as higher numbers of international visitors come to the UAE for key events, including the coming Cop28,” Mr Al Dhaheri said.

Abu Dhabi will also host the UN Conference on Trade and Development's eighth World Investment Forum in October as the UAE capital continues to attract global business events. The emirate has also been added to the WTA Tour's annual calendar, which means a professional tennis tournament will be held in the capital every year.

In terms of air cargo, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain International Airport handled 583,949 tonnes of freight, the airport operator said, without providing comparative figures.

However, it said there was increase in shipments of both general cargo and specialised cargo such as express, temperature-controlled and pharmaceutical products.

Updated: February 09, 2023, 11:28 AM