Economic Slowdown ‘Irrelevant’ to Dubai Airports’ Infrastructure Plans

Zoe Sinclair
Filed on May 7, 2009

DUBAI — Despite a one-year postponement of the world’s largest airport at Jebel Ali and the pushing back of predictions for when Dubai International Airport will meet its capacity, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said the economic slowdown would be “irrelevant” in the entity’s long term 
infrastructure plans.

Griffiths, speaking to Khaleej Times at the Arabian Travel Market this week, said plans for Dubai World Central, the 140sqkm aviation project being built around Al Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali, had not been greatly affected by the ongoing slump but now had a more realistic time frame for completing the project.

“We are now confirmed that we’ll lauch in June 2010,” Griffiths said.

“I don’t think it’s a delay. We initially set a target of June 2009 but then we said, that just like we did with Terminal 3 – we really do need a little more time to get the product absolutely right. “So we decided to take a little more time and that’s given us a much much more realistic timetable to achieve everything we’ve got to achieve.”

Dubai International Airport saw a 2.3 per cent growth in passenger numbers in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period the year before. International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures put worldwide passenger demand in March at 11.1 per cent lower than in March 2008.

However, Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 4.7 per cent growth in March. But IATA said this was out of balance with a 13.1 per cent increase in capacity. Griffiths said the airport would concentrate on maximising capacity at Dubai International Airport with Concourse 3 schedule to be completed by 2010 increasing capacity from 60 million passengers to 75 million passengers. “And we are going to continue to invest in Dubai International to get it to 80 million which we planned we will fully utilise by about 2018,” Griffiths said.

While Griffiths said 2018 was not the original estimate for reaching capacity he did not specify how much the time frame had changed.

“We’ve extended the life at Dubai International by doing a number of productivity increases,” Griffiths said.

“The time it will take to design and deliver the full 160 million passenger airfield at Al Maktoum International is clearly going to take a while to do and what we want to make sure is we’re not turning away growth in the meantime.” The airport is still focused on reducing costs and improving efficiency and Griffiths said Al Maktoum International would open its first runway and terminal, with a capacity of nine million passengers, without increasing staff numbers.

“We think the growth will happen,” Griffiths said.

“We think the current economic situation which is clearly challenging and we’re working hard on our infrastructure and productivity to reduce our cost of operations – we feel that actually in the fullness of time this period will be irrelevant in compared to our growth over the next ten years.”


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