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Dubai International Airport sees 41.6 million passengers in first half of year, more than in 2019

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DUBAI, Aug 22 (AP): Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel,
announced on Tuesday it served 41.6 million passengers in the first half of this year — exceeding
figures for the same period in 2019 as travellers return to the air after the lockdowns of the
coronavirus pandemic.
The airport, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates in skyscraper-studded Dubai, long has served as
a barometer for the aviation industry worldwide. The new figures at the airport known as DXB
reflect figures offered by the International Air Transport Association that traffic worldwide is at 94
per cent of pre-COVID levels.
“Dubai International Airport has once again recorded for the ninth year running that it is the world’s
busiest international airport with a very, very strong first half,” Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai
Airports, told The Associated Press.
“The most important part of that is that we’ve reached 100 per cent of our pre-pandemic numbers,
the same numbers as recorded in the first half of 2019.”
The 41.6 million passengers is up some 50 per cent from the 27.9 million recorded the same time
last year, as airlines now have more planes and routes running again.
Passenger traffic this year largely has been driven by the airport’s standard travel destinations —
India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Pakistan. Russia has also been a major market as Dubai
remains one of the few places still open to Russians amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Dubai was among the first cities to reopen to tourists in the pandemic. That helped boost the city-
state’s tourism industry, as attractions like the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the sail-
shaped Burj Al-Arab luxury hotel draw both visitors and transit passengers out of airport lounges.
Dubai surpassed its pre-pandemic, half-year tourist figures this year with 8.55 million international
visitors. Dubai hotels saw an average occupancy of 78 per cent during that period — ranking among
some of the world’s top destinations.
“What happened pre-pandemic is we saw 60 per cent transit and 40 per cent point to point, but
that’s actually reversed,” Griffiths said. “What we’re now seeing is 60 per cent of that traffic number
is point to point and 40 per cent is transit. So that’s a very notable statistic and underpins the appeal
of Dubai as a very, very strong tourist destination.”
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport remains the planet’s busiest passenger airport
overall.
Emirates also saw its most profitable year ever in 2022, earning USD 2.9 billion as passengers
returned to its long-haul Boeing 777s and its double-decker Airbus A380s. The return of the A380
has seen the average number of passengers per flight jump at DXB to 214, Griffiths said.
Griffiths said given the demand, the airport has bumped its projected passenger numbers for 2023
to 85 million, just shy of 2019’s annual traffic of 86.3 million passengers. The airport saw 89.1 million
passengers in 2018 — its busiest-ever year before the pandemic. DXB had 66 million passengers pass
through it in 2022.
For Dubai International Airport, however, the swift business also revives a major challenge forgotten
during the pandemic — it is boxed in. The airport sits in the northern reaches of Dubai, bracketed by
two major highways to the east and west and vast neighbourhoods to its north and south. That
prohibits expanding the size of the two-runway airfield.
“We are landlocked on all four sides because I think back in the 39;60s when this airport was a very
small single runway field, no one really saw at that time the huge development” coming, Griffiths
said of DXB. “I think it’s testament to the developments we have undertaken that within that
landlocked site, we’ve been able to produce real estate, which has become the world’s busiest
international airport.”
He said the airport has a plan to spend as much as USD 2.7 billion to expand and upgrade its three
terminals and increase the number of remote aircraft parking spaces on the airport’s apron. Those
improvements “will probably see us right for about the next 12 to 13 years,” he said.

That likely will extend the horizon further for major work at Al Maktoum International Airport at
Dubai World Central, the city-state’s second airfield some 45 kilometers (28 miles) away in its far
southern reaches. While used by commercial airlines when Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup,
the second airport that opened in 2010 largely sees cargo and private aircraft flights.
Dubai International Airport now serves 257 destinations across 104 countries. (AP)

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