Dubai travellers expected to buck global trend for flights

Dubai International airport on track to receive 51 million passengers by the end of the year despite slow growth last month and risks presented by the weak euro zone and UK economies.

Dubai International Airport handled 4,019,230 passengers last month. Stephen Lock / The National
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More than 50 million passengers are expected to fly in and out of Dubai by the end of the year despite slow growth last month and increasing weakness in the global economy.

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The projection, made by the company that runs Dubai International Airport yesterday, reflects expectations that the emirate will continue to grow as a transit hub that keeps drawing passengers from different parts of the world.

Passenger traffic growth at Dubai International slowed to 0.8 per cent last month as regional travel declined, largely because of the timing of Ramadan and unrest in some countries, officials at Dubai Airports Company said.

"Western European traffic, which usually offsets the drop in Middle Eastern traffic during the month of Ramadan, remained flat," a representative of Dubai Airports, the owner and manager of Dubai International, said yesterday.

"I know Dubai International has only seen less than 1 per cent growth rate during the month of August, but I don't think that's representative of any kind of trend," said Saj Ahmad, an analyst at FBE Aerospace. "You had the pressure of the month of Ramadan … which coincided with a lot of vacation time and school holidays … so there was less incentive for people to come out to the Middle East. When we look at September's numbers we will see a marked increase."

Passenger numbers on Middle Eastern routes were down by 65,000 passengers.

Dubai International handled 4,019,230 passengers last month. In the first eight months, traffic reached 33,311,157, up 8 per cent compared with the same period last year, Dubai Airports officials said. "We are on track to meet our projection for 51 million passengers by year end," said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

There are signs that economic weakness in the euro zone and the UK is dampening travel demand in Western Europe.

"You've got the euro and sterling going through the floor, and that gives us sleepless nights because so much of our income comes out of the euro zone and the UK but on the other hand, the non euro- zone currencies are stronger," Tim Clark, the president of Emirates Airline, told Reuters yesterday.

Some European carriers, including Lufthansa, have scaled back on planned capacity increases because of lower than expected demand. The airline issued a profits warning last week. IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, has reported a 3.6 per cent decline in passenger numbers last month compared with August last year.

"If anything, we're seeing an economic landscape which is slightly different in the Middle East," said Mr Ahmad.