Dubai International Airport's first-quarter passenger traffic dropped 67.8 per cent to 5.75 million compared to the same quarter a year ago, which was "largely unaffected" by the Covid-19 pandemic, its operator said.
The year-on-year contraction came as the suspension of operations by airlines and airports worldwide to stem the spread of the pandemic only began at the end of March, Dubai Airports said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Whilst passenger numbers for the first quarter remained significantly below the monthly volumes we handled before March 2020, in the context of the current global situation they are very encouraging and reflect the consolidation phase in our business recovery," Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said.
Overall, passenger traffic at the world's airports declined 64.6 per cent and by 45.7 per cent at the world's top 10 busiest airports in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, according to Airports Council International (ACI). China's Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport emerged as the world's busiest airport last year, knocking Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to second place. Hubs in six Chinese cities were among the top 10 based on passenger traffic.
Dubai – along with the main airports in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Chicago, London and Paris – fell out of the top 10 rankings for total passengers in 2020, but it ranked first for international passenger numbers.
Out of the 5.75 million passengers in the first quarter, Dubai International handled more than two million of these in March, the operator said.
India, which is traditionally a strong market for the UAE, remained Dubai International's top destination country with traffic in the first quarter reaching 1.3 million – driven by top city destinations New Delhi and Mumbai. It was followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh and Russia. Other destination countries of note include Egypt and Turkey.
The top three cities were New Delhi, Dhaka and Addis Ababa.
Air cargo volumes showed more resilience than passenger traffic during the pandemic, growing 3.2 per cent to 550,811 tonnes during the first three months of 2021, Dubai Airports said.
By the end of the first quarter of this year, 74 per cent of the airlines flying into Dubai airport served 63 per cent of the destinations compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic, it said.
"Despite the ongoing challenges to air travel as the world continues to battle against the impact of the global pandemic, as an important hub, DXB will continue to play its role of enabling mobility and connectivity and contribute to the much needed social and economic recovery globally," Mr Griffiths said.