Dubai retains rank as busiest international airport in 2018

Dubai International Airport sees passenger traffic grow 1% to 89.1 million last year

A picture take on September 14, 2017 shows people walking at Dubai's International Airport . / AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

Dubai International Airport kept its title as the world’s busiest international airport for the fifth consecutive year in 2018, recording a rise in passenger numbers even amid a slowing global economy.

The annual customer tally at Dubai's main transit hub increased by 1 per cent to 89.1 million last year from 88.2 million in 2017 as the number of flights dipped but the average number of passengers per plane went up, operator Dubai Airports said on Monday.

The number of flights fell 0.3 per cent to 408,251 during 2018 while the average number of passengers grew slightly by 1.3 per cent to 226 people per plane, the airport operator said.

The annual traffic results fell shy of Dubai Airport’s forecast of 90.3 million passengers for 2018 as rising oil prices and a stronger dollar hurt growth at Emirates, which uses the airport as its hub. The increase in passenger growth at Dubai International Airport comes amid a plateau in the global economy last year. The International Monetary Fund cut its estimates for global economic growth in 2018 to 3.7 per cent in December, 0.2 percentage points lower than the fund’s July forecast and at the same pace of 2017.

The number of Chinese visitors grew 6 per cent to 3.5 million in 2018 and Russian travellers grew 14.5 per cent to 1.5 million. 

The UAE eased visa requirements for Chinese and Russian travellers in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

India continued to be the largest source market country with 12.2 million travellers using the hub, followed by Saudi Arabia and the UK.

The top three cities were London, Mumbai and Kuwait City, according to the operator.

Eastern Europe was the fastest-growing region with a 16.7 per cent rise in traffic, followed by the Commonwealth of Independent States and Africa.

Annual cargo volumes dropped 0.5 per cent to 2.6 million tonnes.

Dubai Airports did not provide a forecast for passenger traffic growth in 2019.