Dubai starts constructing new $35bn passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International Airport

Airport will be able to welcome 260 million passengers annually, offering 'world's largest' capacity

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Dubai on Sunday approved designs for a new passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International Airport and began construction at a cost of Dh128 billion ($34.8 billion) as the emirate boosts airport capacity to meet growing travel demand.

Once complete, Al Maktoum International Airport will have "the world's largest capacity", reaching up to 260 million passengers, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said on X.

It will be five times the size of the current Dubai International Airport, which is currently ranked the top globally for international passenger traffic.

It will "fully absorb Dubai International Airport’s operations in 10 years", Dubai Media Office said.

The airport, spread across 70 square kilometres, will feature 400 aircraft gates, five parallel runways, and new aviation technology. It will have the capacity to handle 12 million tonnes of cargo annually.

The first phase of the project is expected to be ready within 10 years, with a capacity to accommodate 150 million passengers annually.

The airport will offer public transport links including to the metro, bus and city air transport.

"As we build an entire city around the airport in Dubai South, demand for housing for a million people will follow. It will host the world's leading companies in the logistics and air transport sectors," Sheikh Mohammed said.

"We are building a new project for future generations ... Dubai will be the world's airport, its port, its urban hub, and its new global centre."

Dubai's aviation sector has made a strong rebound from the pandemic-induced slowdown and was among the first to reopen to international travellers, bolstered by a strong Covid vaccine programme and health guidelines.

Dubai International Airport (DXB), which handled 86.9 million passengers last year, a growth of 31.7 per cent annually, retained its spot as the world's busiest international hub for passengers for a 10th consecutive year, data by the Airports Council International this month showed.

The airport recorded a total of 416,405 flight movements in 2023, the highest on record at DXB, and is connected to more than 260 destinations through more than 100 international airlines.

This year, the airport expects to receive 88.8 million passengers, close to its previous record of 89.1 million in 2018.

DXB expects its annual passenger traffic to reach 93.8 million next year and “hopefully we'll get the magic 100 million number not long after”, Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told The National in February.

The boom in traffic comes amid rising travel demand despite inflationary pressures, concerns about economic headwinds and risks stemming from geopolitical tension.

The emirate is also recording strong growth in tourism.

Dubai reported its best annual tourism performance last year, when international arrivals to the emirate increased 19.4 per cent to 17.15 million. This exceeded the 16.73 million visitors in 2019, according to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.

As part of Dubai's economic agenda D33, the emirate aims to attract Dh100 billion in additional tourism investments and receive 40 million hotel guests in 2031.

"The new airport, which will ultimately be over five times the size of Dubai International, will prepare the ground for the next 40 years of anticipated growth in Dubai’s aviation sector," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation and president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

"It will respond to the hub airline ambitious plans in terms of fleet acquisition and passenger growth," said Sheikh Ahmed, who is also chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

The airport is also being designed to "strongly contribute to mitigate environmental emissions" and aims to achieve LEED gold certification, he said.

“Al Maktoum International is planned in such a way as to represent a leap into the future."

The new airport will generate an estimated workforce and residential requirement for more than 1 million people living and working in Dubai South, which has been under development since 2007.

"DXB will continue to serve as the primary hub, meeting the needs of 100 million-plus guests over the next few years as phase two of DWC [Dubai World Central] takes shape," Mr Griffiths said on Sunday.

"We will be actively collaborating with our airline customers, our strategic partners, the Dubai government and our stakeholders to bring this visionary project to fruition."

Updated: April 29, 2024, 6:56 AM