Dubai Begins Work on ‘World’s Largest Airport’ Project

Skift Take

Dubai is dreaming big in tourism and what better way to top it off than with the world’s largest airport?

Dubai confirmed Sunday it would be shifting its airport operations from the current Dubai International Airport to Al Maktoum International Airport “within the next 10 years.”

Announcing the emirate’s plan to develop Al Maktoum International Airport as the world’s largest airport, with a capacity of 260 million passengers, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “Dubai will be the world’s airport, its port, its urban hub, and its new global centre,”

Sheikh Mohammed has approved the designs for the new terminals at Al Maktoum International Airport, and greenlighted the commencement of construction for the project. The project is expected to cost AED 128 billion ($35 billion).

“Al Maktoum International Airport will enjoy the world’s largest capacity, reaching up to 260 million passengers. It will be five times the size of the current airport, and all operations at Dubai International Airport will be transferred to it in the coming years,” the Dubai ruler said in a statement.

The airport would be able to accommodate 400 aircraft gates and feature five parallel runways, according to an official statement.

What About DXB Airport?

“DXB (Dubai International Airport) 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 — Al Maktoum International Airport) takes shape. 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,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said in a statement on Sunday.

Dubai’s development has closely paralleled the expansion of its aviation infrastructure, Griffiths said.

“There isn’t really the space to be able to add additional runways or terminals at DXB so all eyes are on the potential future of another airport development at DWC,” Griffiths had said to Bloomberg TV in February.

In 2023, Dubai International Airport received 86.9 million passengers. Its annual traffic in 2019 was 86.3 million. DXB expects to receive 88.8 million guests this year, the closest to its 2018 all-time high of 89.1 million passengers.

The Need for a Mega Airport

At the Skift Global Forum East last year, speakers had highlighted the need for infrastructure investment, including a future mega airport. 

“What we’ve got to do is take the bold step of creating this mega airport, but to me the tricky bit is how do we make something of that scale, actually beautiful,” Griffiths said then.

Dubai-based Emirates Airline opened the Dubai Airshow in November with a significant order for 95 additional wide-body aircraft, taking its total order book to 295 aircraft. Low-cost carrier flydubai has also placed its first wide-body order for 30 Boeing 787-9s at the Dubai Airshow.

Dubai’s Tourism Boom

Dubai has also set an ambitious target of 40 million hotel guests by 2031. Last year, the emirate welcomed more tourists than ever before, attracting 17.15 million international overnight visitors, according to the data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

“The new airport… will prepare the ground for the next 40 years of anticipated growth in Dubai’s aviation sector. It will respond to the Hub Airline ambitious plans in terms of fleet acquisition and passenger growth,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group.

The operator of Dubai’s airports predicted passenger traffic will be close to an all-time high this year, highlighting the need to expand beyond the city’s main hub and further develop a second facility.

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