Capacity is critical for future of Dubai airports, chief says

Expanding capacity at Dubai’s airports is a priority if the emirate is to maintain its lead as a regional hub and hold off competition from other airports in the Gulf and Turkey, according to the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

Speaking at an aviation industry conference in Dubai yesterday, Paul Griffiths said: “If we cannot continue to supply the capacity required for growth, then this growth will not going to stop, but find another hub to fly over.”

Mr Griffiths was referring to growing competition from Doha’s new Hamad International Airport, Abu Dhabi’s upcoming Midfield Terminal and Istanbul’s new airport, which is slated to open in 2017.

Dubai International handled 7.2 million passengers in August, up 9.5 per cent year-on-year, and is on target to reach 79 million this year. Mr Griffiths said that the airports operator has planned a series of developments to help accommodate the 126 million passengers that are projected to fly through the city’s two airports by 2020.

With the opening of Concourse D by the end of this year, Dubai International will be able to handle 90 million passengers. “By 2020 the demand that we are going to have to accommodate is somehow 100 million,” he said. “We [have] got to add [capacity for] another 10 million passengers.”

The airport will resort to advanced technology to help with a speedy turnover of passengers.

Dubai International is also studying ways to reduce the take-off time between A380 aircraft, which makes up the majority of Emirates’ fleet.

“We are running trials to selectively reduce the separation for the A380 down from five miles to three miles in certain combinations under certain conditions,” said Mr Griffiths.

“That clearly will have a positive impact on capacity … If we can prove that this practice works in complete safety.”

Additionally, capacity at Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) will be scaled up to accommodate 26 million passengers before 2020, said Mr Griffiths.

The airports chief said there was the possibility that the low-cost carrier flydubai would move its operations “gradually” to DWC to make way for capacity to be released at Dubai International.

Without giving more details about the move, Mr Griffiths said: “The thing is, to make best use of slots [at DWC] this transition has got to be reasonably rapid. But obviously the details of that are still being worked on.”

Flydubai started operating 70 flights per week from DWC this month. “DWC is the new frontier of aviation in the UAE,” the flydubai chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith said yesterday. “The start of our new operations at DWC provides further opportunities for growth for flydubai.”

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