Dubai airport remains world’s busiest for international traffic despite slower 2016 growth

India continued to be Dubai’s single largest destination country in 2016 with 11.4 million passengers, up 10.1 per cent.

Emirates aircraft sit on the tarmac of Dubai International Airport. Courtesy Emirates
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Dubai International expects to receive 89 million passengers in 2017 after last year retaining its status as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers.

About 83.6 million people passed through the airport last year, up by 7.2 per cent on 2015, according to operator Dubai Airports.

The airport “is closing the gap on Atlanta and Beijing for the top spot in overall traffic”, said Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports’ chief executive.

Atlanta is the world’s busiest airport, with last year’s figure expected to be 100 million passengers.

The DXB Plus programme, a series of initiatives and technologies to be introduced at the airport, aims to catapult Dubai to the top aviation hub with 118 million passengers at Dubai International in 2023.

But congestion could challenge that ambition.

“The UAE simply has to raise the commercial air space capacity to allow further growth and reduce congestion,” said Saj Ahmad, an analyst at StrategicAero Research in London. “Alleviation is key, otherwise the rate of growth could slow down as passengers seek other less congested transit points.”

New airlines, including Nepal Airlines and Rossiya, an Aeroflot Group carrier, touched down at the airport last year while existing airlines such as flydubai and Emirates added 11 passenger destinations.

India was the airport’s single largest destination country last year, spurred by capacity increase and new services from Spice Jet, Jet Airways and Air India.

About 11.44 million passengers on routes to India passed through the airport, up 10.1 per cent compared to 2015.

Saudi Arabia was the second busiest route with 6.08 million passengers going to the country from Dubai International, up 11.3 per cent from 2015, followed by the UK at 6.06 million passengers, up by 6.7 per cent.

London, Doha and Mumbai were the top destination choices from Dubai International. The number of passengers from eastern Europe showed the steepest rise, at 17.5 per cent, followed by Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Cargo volumes improved in the last quarter with the ground staff handling a total of 2.59 million tonnes in freight last year, up 3.4 per cent compared with the previous year. In December, the airport recorded 230,122 tonnes of cargo, an increase of 5.4 per cent year-on-year.

About 7.7 million passengers passed through the airport last month, up by 9.3 per cent year-on-year. August was the busiest month last year with 7.72 million passengers.

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