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Terminal 3 boosts Dubai airport growth to world No1

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The opening of Terminal 3, said to be the world’s largest building by floor space in October 2008 helped boost passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport to a record 40.9 million passengers last year, up 9.3 per cent, making it the fastest growing major airport in the world.

The new terminal is exclusively for the Dubai airline Emiratres whose rapid expansion continued last year with new routes and frequencies and the delivery of 10 new aircraft including several A380s. There was also the launch of the new low-cost carrier flydubai and aggressive competition among the 130 airlines using the airport as a hub.

Cargo volume up too

It is still a remarkable feat to have beaten the worst global recession in living memory, and to have expanded passenger traffic at a very difficult time for the aviation industry. Even cargo volumes were up 5.6 per cent to 1.93 million despite the overall 16 per cent slump in total exports from Dubai last year.

Dubai Airports chairman and Emirates CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum could be forgiven for adding: ‘If we can set records in a tough economic environment, the sky is the limit for what we can achieve when conditions improve’.

The worldwide aviation industry saw traffic crash by 4.2 per cent in the first 11 months of the year. Dubai Airport’s 9.2 per cent annual growth outpaced nearest rivals Istanbul at 6.3 per cent, Kuala Lumpur’s 4.6 per cent and Cairo at 1.5 per cent.

Last year Emirates added non-stop flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Emerging markets are also a source of increased passenger traffic with new airlines using Dubai last year such as Hainan Airways of China and Kingfisher Airlines from India.

Outbound travel from the UAE has tended to shift away from European destinations and towards more affordable destinations like South Africa, Thailand and Australia. Flydubai has also proven popular with residents, increasing the frequency of shorter trips.

New tourist markets

Inbound tourism remains important to the Dubai economy and the crash in hotel prices in 2009 kept the city highly competitive. A fall in visitors from the UK was compensated by more Russians and Chinese tourists.

For 2010 the Dubai International Airport is planning for 13.6 per cent growth to 46 million passengers. The opening of many new hotels in Dubai will keep room rates low but this ambitious target will only be achievable if 2010 turns out to be a year of economic recovery for the world, and that is far from certain.

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Written by Peter Cooper

January 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

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