Dubai airport revises up 2024 passenger traffic forecast to record 91 million

The hub handled more than 23 million passengers in the January to March period, marking its busiest quarter ever

Dubai airlines Emirates and flydubai are expanding their networks, supporting growth at DXB. AFP
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Dubai International Airport (DXB) expects to handle a record 91 million passengers this year, as demand for travel continues to surge and local airlines Emirates and flydubai boost their networks.

The airport handled more than 23 million passengers in the first three months of this year – up 8.4 per cent annually – marking its “busiest quarter in history”, operator Dubai Airports said in a statement on Tuesday.

January recorded the highest traffic, at 7.9 million passengers.

“The robust growth trajectory at DXB continued in the first quarter of the year, with the hub recording some truly impressive numbers … thanks in part to the proliferation of cities being added to our network by our home base carriers Emirates and flydubai, in recent months,” Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said.

“With a strong start to Q2 and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, we have revised our forecast for the year to 91 million guests, surpassing our previous annual traffic record of 89.1 million in 2018.”

Mr Griffiths had previously said that the airport expected to “comfortably” exceed 90 million passengers this year.

Dubai's aviation sector has bounced back strongly from the pandemic-induced slowdown after being among the first to reopen to international travellers.

DXB surpassed its pre-coronavirus annual passenger traffic last year, handling nearly 87 million passengers – a growth of 31.7 per cent year on year – on rising demand for travel.

Travel demand has continued to boom despite geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures and concerns about economic headwinds.

Dubai airline Emirates posted a profit of Dh17.2 billion ($4.7 billion) in its financial year that ended on March 31, up 63 per cent annually, driven by a “voracious appetite” for travel across customer segments, it said this month.

The airline carried 51.9 million passengers, 19 per cent more than the previous financial year, while its seat capacity increased by 21 per cent.

It restarted services to Tokyo Haneda airport, added capacity to 29 destinations and launched new daily flights to Montreal during the period.

Meanwhile, flydubai also said it has grown its network with the addition of five new destinations since the start of 2024 with operations to Al Jouf, Langkawi, Mombasa, Penang and The Red Sea.

The airline carried nearly five million passengers between January and April 2024, a 13 per cent annual increase, it said this month.

The rise in traffic comes as Dubai recorded an 11 per cent increase in tourist numbers in the first quarter of this year, to 5.18 million international overnight visitors, according to data published by the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism.

The emirate also announced last month that it is building a new passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International – the emirate's second airport, also known as Dubai World Central – as DXB inches closer to full capacity.

The new terminal at DWC, with a total investment of Dh128 billion, will boost its capacity to 260 million passengers.

Once complete, the airport will have the world's largest capacity and will be five times the size of DXB, currently ranked top globally for international passenger traffic.

DXB will likely be shut down once the transition is completed to the new passenger terminal, with the massive task of moving all passenger operations occurring gradually in phases, Mr Griffiths told The National in April.

“It will not be in one go, it's far too big an undertaking to happen in one move. It will be something that we have to manage very carefully,” he said at the time.

DXB is currently connected to 256 destinations across 102 countries through 90 international carriers.

In the first quarter of the year, the airport recorded 109,238 flight movements, an 8.3 per cent annual increase, Dubai Airports said.

Passenger load factor – a measure of how well an airline fills available seats – reached 79.1 per cent during the three-month period.

India remained DXB's top destination country, with passenger traffic reaching 3.1 million in the January-March period, followed by Saudi Arabia (2 million), the UK (1.5 million), and Pakistan (1.1 million).

Top cities for traffic included London with 961,000 passengers, Riyadh (795,000), Jeddah (669,000) and Mumbai (637,000).

Updated: May 22, 2024, 7:17 AM