Zayed International Airport posts 36% jump in first-quarter passenger traffic

Abu Dhabi's main hub handled 6.8 million passengers as it attracted more airlines

Abu Dhabi's Zayed International Airport had a total of 29 airlines operating scheduled flights in the first quarter of 2024. Hayley Skirka / The National
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Zayed International Airport's passenger traffic surged by 36 per cent annually in the first quarter of 2024, recording a rise in travel demand after opening its new terminal in November and attracting more airlines.

The Abu Dhabi hub, which is home to Etihad Airways, handled more than 6.8 million passengers in the first three months of the year, state-owned operator Abu Dhabi Airports said on Friday.

Passenger traffic across Abu Dhabi's five airports collectively rose 35.6 per cent year-on-year to more than 6.9 million in the January to March period. Abu Dhabi Airports manages the emirate's Zayed International, Al Ain International, Al Bateen Executive, Delma Island and Sir Bani Yas Island airports.

The capital's airports “are increasingly attracting a growing number of airlines and passengers from around the world. Abu Dhabi Airports remains committed to investing in its facilities and services to enhance the passenger experience,” Elena Sorlini, managing director and chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports, said.

“With these strong Q1 results, the airport group is well-positioned for further growth and success in the future.”

The air passenger traffic comes as Abu Dhabi makes a major push to attract more international visitors to the emirate and develop its non-oil sectors such as aviation, tourism and hospitality to diversify its economy from hydrocarbons.

Zayed International Airport marked the return of Turkmenistan Airlines and the launch of Hainan Airlines flying to Haikou, China, bringing the total number of regular scheduled operators to 29.

London remained the top destination city with nearly 290,000 passengers in the first quarter of the year. Mumbai, Kochi, Delhi and Doha rounded off the top five cities.

Air cargo volumes also grew 25.6 per cent year-on-year to 162,000 tonnes in the first three months of the year, driven by increased shipments of general cargo and specialised products including express deliveries, temperature-controlled products and pharmaceuticals.

Onboard Etihad Airways' first flight from Abu Dhabi to Boston

Onboard Etihad Airways' first flight from Abu Dhabi to Boston

Abu Dhabi's tourism strategy

Abu Dhabi Airports said in November that it aims to “future-proof” the new Terminal A's operations by increasing its capacity to 65 million passengers in 10 years, up from 45 million currently, to bolster Abu Dhabi's position as a global business and tourism hub.

The airport's planned expansion is in line with home airline Etihad Airways' target to triple the number of passengers to 33 million and double its fleet to 150 planes by 2030.

Etihad Airways is charting an ambitious growth path to the end of this decade, with its hub at Abu Dhabi's new airport terminal “critical” for future expansion, its chief executive Antonoaldo Neves told The National in November.

The airline is also preparing for a potential IPO listing – a first for a major Gulf airline – as part of its growth strategy. Etihad Airways' owner, Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ, has already floated companies within its portfolio such as Pure Health, the UAE's largest healthcare group and AD Ports Group.

The emirate's Department of Culture and Tourism is also planning to invest more than $10 billion in infrastructure as part of its new major tourism strategy.

The UAE capital recently launched the Abu Dhabi Tourism Strategy 2030 that aims to add Dh90 billion ($24.5 billion) to the country's GDP annually by 2030 – about 84 per cent higher than its 2023 figure of Dh49 billion.

It also seeks to attract 39.3 million annual visitors to Abu Dhabi, a 7 per cent year-on-year growth and up from an estimated 24 million last year, the department said.

Updated: April 26, 2024, 10:17 AM