The operator of Dubai International Airport will reopen its main terminal this week and hire about 3,500 people as it prepares for an expected surge in traffic in the coming months.
About 66 airlines currently using Terminals 2 and 3 will gradually move their operations to Terminal 1 from June 24, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths told Bloomberg TV.
Terminal 1 handles all international airlines except for Emirates, Qantas and flydubai that operate out of Terminal 3.
“We have school holidays coming up and we have a major Eid holiday here in the UAE,” said Mr Griffiths.
“Plus, looking forward to Expo [2020 Dubai] and various other events ... and the fact that the UAE, throughout the pandemic, has remained open to so many countries around the world, we are anticipating a huge surge in inbound and outbound demand over the next few months.”
Terminal 1's reopening will give the airport operator the ability to handle another 18 million passengers, he said.
It was closed 15 months ago after the Covid-19 pandemic severely disrupted the global travel industry.
Dubai International Airport, the home base for Emirates airline, handled 25.9 million passengers last year, a 70 per cent drop from 2019.
However, the travel and tourism industry is recovering and Mr Griffiths expects the Dubai airport to return to about 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity by autumn.
Emirates said last week that it plans to restore 90 per cent of its passenger network by the end of July.
The airline is also resuming flights to India, South Africa and Nigeria from Wednesday, subject to strict new travel guidelines.
The move comes after Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management announced guidelines on Saturday regarding travel to the three countries.
Dubai Airports chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed said the emirate's aviation sector has been "at the forefront of a global campaign to restore vital international air services, with the opening of quarantine-free travel corridors" between the UAE and several countries around the world.
"This move signals our confidence that the outlook for the rest of the year and beyond is one of optimism, as well as being a clear indication of Dubai’s intent to lead the aviation industry in its efforts to enable social and economic recovery of the world," he said.
"This reopening is a collaborative effort of the many stakeholders involved in the operation of the world’s largest international airport and we are delighted to be able to make this important step towards the restoration of full airport operations."
The aviation industry is among the worst affected sectors worldwide after the pandemic forced countries to shut borders, bringing travel to a near-standstill.
Airport operators and airlines were forced to cut costs, lay off employees, defer aircraft deliveries and seek government bailouts.
However, with travel demand rebounding, Dubai Airports expects to bring 3,500 jobs back, said Mr Griffiths.
“It is going to be more jobs for Dubai,” he said. “We are going to be hiring people, bringing back handling agents. Airlines clearly will be doing that [as well].”
The global aviation “outlook is looking positive” amid plans by the EU to introduce vaccine passports and positive signs from the US with regards to transatlantic travel.
The cautious opening to travellers from South Africa, Nigeria and India will result in some transfer flows for Dubai International "as we retain our crown of the world’s busiest airport”, said Mr Griffiths.
However, Britain continues to struggle with the Delta variant of the coronavirus and the UAE is unlikely to be removed from the country's red travel list this month.
“We heard the news at the weekend from the UK, particularly [that] the Delta variant has not been encouraging. So, I am not sure we are going to see an announcement on the UK opening up,” he said.
The UK remains an important market and “we are anxiously and feverishly negotiating with the UK government”, said Mr Griffiths.
“We understand its data driven and we have to wait for them to be comfortable [and] that they are ready to accept visitors from overseas,” he said.
Mr Griffiths expects a change in status next month and said discussions are ongoing, positive and proactive.
The contribution of inbound tourism to the UK economy is $97 billion a year and the country's Treasury is feeling the pinch of not having that income, he said.