Dubai Airports reports dip in number of passengers first time in 20 years
Dubai, UAE - The number of travellers passing through Dubai International Airport dipped last year for the first time in 20 years but the airport remained the world's busiest for international passengers, authorities said on Wednesday.
Traffic at the major transit hub dropped 3.1 per cent to 86.4mn passengers, down from 89.15mn passengers in 2018, Dubai Airports said.
It is the first fall in the number of passengers at Dubai International since at least 2,000, according to figures from Dubai Statistics Centre, a government agency.
The airport retained its position as the top global airport serving international passengers, beating second-placed Heathrow Airport by six million passengers, the statement said.
It attributed the decline in passenger numbers to a ‘series of challenges’ including the 45 day closure of the airport’s south runway to enable its refurbishment, global market conditions, as well as the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.
“While customer numbers in 2019 were lower than the preceding year, the impact of the 45-day closure of the runway, the bankruptcy of Jet Airways, as well as the grounding of the Boeing’s 737 MAX accounted for an estimated 3.2mn passengers over the course of the year,” Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.
Low cost carrier Flydubai has been one of the biggest customers of the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded since March last year following two crashes that killed 346 people and opened the doors to intense scrutiny of the US manufacturer’s safety practices.
India accounted for the largest number of passengers using Dubai airport, with 11.9mn.
Saudi Arabia provided the second largest, with 6.3mn, narrowly ahead of Britain's 6.2mn.
The number of flights handled by the airport also dropped last year, falling by 8.6 per cent to 373,261, Dubai Airports said.
The volume of cargo handled fell by 4.8 per cent to 2.5mn tonnes.
Passenger arrivals in Dubai reached a record 16.73mn passengers last year, up 5.1 per cent on 2018 but far short of the 20mn the authorities hope to welcome this year.
For the past few years, the glitzy city state has been battling an economic slowdown led by its key real estate and tourism sectors.
Growth slowed to 1.94 per cent in 2018, before rebounding slightly to 2.1 per cent last year, according to government figures.
Emirates passenger planes lined up at the gates of Dubai International Airport