Dubai Air­ports will work out master plan to ex­pand pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity

The National - News - - BUSINESS - Deena Kamel

Dubai Air­ports is plan­ning to hold a meet­ing in De­cem­ber to dis­cuss the way for­ward on the ex­pan­sion of the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port (DXB) and the emi­rate’s sec­ond hub Al Mak­toum In­ter­na­tional Air­port (Dubai World Cen­tral), its chief ex­ec­u­tive said.

The emi­rate is look­ing to boost ca­pac­ity at Dubai In­ter­na­tional, the world’s busiest hub, to 120 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally in 2023, up from 90 mil­lion cur­rently, by “in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy to im­prove traf­fic flow, which will pro­vide enough growth for the sec­tor through to early-to-mid 2030s”, Paul Grif­fiths, Dubai Air­ports chief ex­ec­u­tive, told The Na­tional.

This will give “breath­ing space” to con­sider the ul­ti­mate de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of Dubai World Cen­tral’s phase two ex­pan­sion to 120 mil­lion an­nual pas­sen­gers.

“We’ve got a meet­ing next month to con­sider all the op­tions and hope­fully be­fore the end of the year we may have some an­nounce­ments to con­firm the strat­egy. Its an in­te­grated pro­gramme be­tween the two,” he said.

Dubai is the hub for Emi­rates, which has used its po­si­tion at a cross­roads be­tween Europe and Asia to de­velop an un­par­al­leled net­work of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal con­nec­tions. Emi­rates, the big­gest cus­tomer of the air­port op­er­a­tor, car­ried 29.6 mil­lion pas­sen­gers dur­ing the first half of the fis­cal year and its pas­sen­ger seat fac­tor – which mea­sures how many seats an air­line can fill, rose to 81.1 per cent – from 78.8 per cent last year.

The de­ci­sion to end the A380 pro­gramme by Air­bus, of which Emi­rates was a pri­mary cus­tomer, does not have a di­rect in­fra­struc­ture im­pact on DWC be­cause the master plan is “air­craft-ag­nos­tic” to ac­com­mo­date new trends in tech­nol­ogy, Mr Grif­fiths said.

Dubai In­ter­na­tional ex­pects its pas­sen­ger tally this year to be ap­prox­i­mately on par with last year’s traf­fic, clipped by weaker global air travel de­mand and op­er­a­tional chal­lenges, but will re­main the world’s busiest in­ter­na­tional hub.

A 45-day run­way re­fur­bish­ment in April that re­duced ca­pac­ity, the global ground­ing of Boe­ing’s 737 Max since March and col­lapse of In­dia’s Jet Air­ways dur­ing the sum­mer have im­pacted growth at the hub, Mr Grif­fiths said.

“Those three events have had a de­pres­sive im­pact,” he said.

Mr Grif­fiths ex­pects Dubai In­ter­na­tional to serve as many cus­tomers this year as it did in 2018. “We had quite a pos­i­tive Oc­to­ber. Once Novem­ber and De­cem­ber are through, we’re go­ing to keep our fin­gers crossed that we will end up at least at par­ity to where we were in 2018,” he said. “It won’t be a block­buster year for us be­cause of those fac­tors.”

“We’re still unas­sail­ably the largest in­ter­na­tional hub in world, and in­tend to be and will con­tinue to be,” he said. “There is no chance of any air­port sur­pass­ing our po­si­tion.”

Over the next few years the in­dus­try outlook forecasts growth of around 1.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent and ex­pan­sion at Dubai In­ter­na­tional is likely be in line with that trend.

The Dubai Air­ports chief is bullish on prospects of fu­ture growth fu­elled by Chi­nese pas­sen­gers.

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