Travel demand is finally back with Dubai welcoming more than seven million travellers last year, and Dubai International Airport remaining the busiest airport in the world — handling 29.1 million passengers in 2021.
Yet just as things are on the up, DXB is getting ready to close one of its two runways.
On May 9, the northern runway will close for a 45-day refurbishment project. During this time, several flights that typically fly into the airport will instead operate to or from Dubai World Central.
Paul Griffiths, chief executive at Dubai Airports, explained why it makes sense to do the work now.
“We're anticipating 57 million passengers this year. Pre-Covid, in 2019, we recorded 89 million. So while I'm completely ecstatic and excited about the growth numbers, we are still operating at only two-thirds of our normal demand levels. If we were to delay the runway works, we would probably impact more passengers than if we do them now,” he told The National.
“We chose the period between the end of the Eid break, and the start of the summer demand because traditionally, that's a fairly low period for traffic.”
Travellers with plans to fly to or from Dubai during the closure are advised to reconfirm flight details on Dubai Airport’s website and with their airline before starting their journey. If you have a flight planned, here’s everything you need to know about how the runway shutdown will affect travellers.
Why are flights being moved from Dubai airport?
Several flights that typically operate to and from Dubai International Airport will instead operate from Dubai World Central between May 9 and June 22. This is while the northern runway at DXB is closed for renovation.
As a dual-runway airport, operations will continue during this time, but the reduced capacity means several flights will switch operations to Dubai’s other airport, Al Maktoum Airport at Dubai World Central.
The closure is necessary for airport maintenance, which was last carried out in 2014. Work will include the placement of 160,000 tonnes of asphalt and 30,000m3 of concrete on the runway; the replacement of 264 kilometres of cables; and the installation of 4,400 runway lights. The southern runway underwent a similar closure in 2019.
Which flights will operate from Dubai World Central?
A host of airlines will operate from Dubai World Central during the closure, including Flydubai, Spice Jet, Indigo, Gulf Air and more.
Flydubai is moving around 30 per cent of its operations to the airport and the low-cost carrier has announced a list of 39 destinations affected by the move, including Addis Ababa, Bahrain, Delhi, Jeddah, Muscat and Riyadh.
Dubai World Central will handle 1,000 flights per week while DXB’s northern runway undergoes maintenance.
Are Emirates' flights affected by the runway closure at DXB?
Emirates' flights will not be affected by the runway maintenance programme, with all flights scheduled to fly in or out of Terminal 3 at DXB and operating as normal. The Dubai airline is working closely with airport authorities to ensure a seamless experience for all travellers.
“Building on best practices from the previous two runway rehabilitation projects at DXB in 2014 and 2019, Emirates already has response plans in place to ensure that our operations maintain on-time performance while utilising a single runway, while reducing instances of flight delays and disruptions across our destination network,” a spokesman for Emirates confirmed to The National.
Should I leave extra time when flying out of Dubai World Central?
Travellers should leave plenty of time for their journeys, and are recommended to get to the airport three hours ahead of flight departure times to complete check-in, security and immigration processes.
Travel time to Dubai World Central will be shorter for many people than it would be to DXB, with reduced journey times for people travelling from JLT, Motor City, Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi. Dubai World Central’s compact size could also mean that people journey move though the airport faster than they might do at Dubai International Airport.
“The walking distances are so short, it's quite a compact and convenient airport to use and I'm hoping actually that people will like it so much that when we continue services there throughout the balance of the year, then it will actually be a pretty convenient place to go,” said Mr Griffiths.
What facilities are open at Dubai World Central?
Opening for the first time since the global pandemic, Dubai World Central is ready to welcome travellers again at 100 per cent capacity. “Today is the second day of our full trial where we've taken volunteers and positioned them at DWC to go through the passenger journey,” said Mr Griffiths.
“We're intensively testing all of our baggage systems, all of our immigration and checking systems to make sure we’re fully ready. There's no margin of error here, because we're going to go from zero to 1,000 flights in a single week … but we're quite good at doing that.”
All restaurants, bars, cafes and duty-free shopping at the airport will be operational, including Costa Coffee, Starbucks, McDonalds, Marhaba Lounge and more.
Can I use smart gates at Dubai World Central?
Smart gates have been installed at Dubai World Central, meaning that UAE visa-holders can complete immigration without having to use boarding passes or Emirates IDs. Travellers who are registered in the system simply need to complete an iris scan to process in or out of Dubai immigration at the airport.
Do I need to wear a face mask at Dubai World Central?
Face masks remain mandatory for all travellers and staff at Dubai World Central, both in the airport and on flights operating to and from the Dubai hub.
“For the time being until the risk has receded more, I think mask-wearing will remain mandatory. However, we will follow up with the Department of Health and when the government actually recommends that the risk has passed sufficiently to make face masks more of a personal choice, then we'll support that decision,” said Mr Griffiths.
How do I get from DWC to DXB?
Travellers who have connecting flights in Dubai and are flying into or out of alternate airports in the city will be able to hop on the inter-airport complimentary coach. This will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There’s also free on-site parking for passengers at DWC, and those looking to take a taxi should face no issues, with special fares in Roads and Transport Authority taxis for all journeys originating from DWC.
“We've talked to Dubai Taxi Corporation, and we've made them aware of the demand that will be there, and they will be supporting the operation,” said Mr Griffiths.
There is no metro station at DWC — the Expo 2020 Metro station is the closest option and is located around a 15 minute drive from the airport. RTA express bus services are also available to Ibn Battuta Mall and Al Ghubaiba Bus Station.