Dubai airport runway shutdown: 20 facts passengers should know

Filed on May 1, 2014

Airlines flying to Dubai have already started communicating schedule changes required by the runway refurbishment programme, with some airlines electing to move their flights to Al Maktoum International for 80 days.

Dubai International Airport

1. Both runways at Dubai International are undergoing a phased refurbishment and upgrading during an 80-day period commencing May 1, 2014.

2. The southern runway will be closed from May 1 to May 31, 2014, while the northern runway will be out of operation from May 31 to July 20, 2014 as the upgrades are implemented.

3. To safeguard service levels and optimise capacity while the work is taking place, scheduled passenger flights at Dubai International will be reduced and all freighter, charter and general aviation flights will be diverted to Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC). In all there will be a 26 per cent reduction in the number of aircraft movements at DXB during the maintenance period.

4. As airlines will be using bigger aircraft where possible and load factors are expected to be higher than usual, the actual reduction in seat and passenger numbers will be less than 26 per cent.

5. The northern runway is nearing the end of its design life and requires resurfacing and other modifications to accommodate future traffic. At the same time there is a requirement to upgrade runway lighting and construct new rapid exit taxiways on the southern runway to boost capacity.

6. The runway rehabilitation and additional taxiway construction will result in the consumption of circa 800,000 tonnes of aggregates, 11,000 airfield lighting luminaires, 1,050km of cabling, 1,750 new manholes and 8.3km of drainage piping.

7. Other than the planned changes to flight schedules, the construction will have no direct impact on traffic. However, a single runway means less flexibility and therefore significant planning is underway to ensure that Dubai International is able to quickly recover from any disruption such as poor weather conditions.

Impact on flight schedules

8. Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) has allocated 96 per cent of the total available capacity during the runway maintenance period. The total resulting reduction has now reached 26 per cent. The base carriers – Emirates and flydubai – are contributing 52.8 per cent of the total required reduction while the restriction of freighters and charter operators together with other scheduled passenger airlines are contributing 47.2 per cent of the required reduction.

9. Airlines flying to Dubai have already started communicating schedule changes required by the runway refurbishment programme with some airlines electing to move their flights to Al Maktoum International for the duration of the 80 days.

10. In its planning Dubai Airports has built in flexibility into the flight schedule over the 80 days to ensure that should there be any delays, such as poor weather conditions, it is able to quickly recover to normal operations.

Planning for the 80-day closure

11. Runway resurfacing is a common occurrence with airports around the world. However, as Dubai International offers airlines a 24/7 operation, runway closures are more complex and must be meticulously planned.

12. To ease the impact of the 80-day closure significant work and planning is under way. This includes construction work that is being conducted before the 80-day refurbishment period.

13. Pre-works include the construction of an end around taxiway to Dubai International’s northern runway. The new taxiway will allow aircraft using the southern runway to taxi to the north side of the airfield, avoiding crossing over the northern runway and thus improving traffic flow on both runways both during and after the refurbishment programme.

14. Other works include construction of rapid exit taxiways on both runways which will reduce runway occupancy times. Most of the construction will take place prior to May1 and will be completed during the 80-day period.

15. Dubai Airports has formed several operational and planning groups and task forces involving people from across stakeholder groups to ensure smooth transition and operations throughout the programme at both airports.

16. Flight levels at DWC during the 80-day closure remains a work in progress as airlines consider their options. Passenger traffic is expected to increase sharply with more than 600 passenger flights a week operating from the airport during the 80-day period.

17. A total of 18 airlines have applied for slots at DWC during the 80-day runway refurbishment programme. This include 12 airlines that will relocate to DWC for the 80 period and include flydubai, PAL Express, Jet Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Yemenia Airlines, Equatorial Congo Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Ural Airlines, Finnair, HI Hamburg International, Japan Airlines, Rotana Jets and Transaero Airlines. They will join six airlines – which include Wizz Air, Gulf Air, Jazeera Airlines, Qatar Airways, Eastern Horizon Airlines and Eastern SkyJets – which already operate from DWC and will continue to operate during the 80 days.

18. The Roads and Transport Authority will continue to provide a fully integrated ground transportation solution for Al Maktoum International with a regular bus service from key locations in Dubai and a dedicated fleet of taxis serving the airport. Dubai Airports will also provide a shuttle service every 30 minutes between the two airports. The shuttle will arrive and depart from the passenger terminal at DWC and the departures areas of terminals 1, 2 and 3 at Dubai International. The journey will take about 2 hours in either direction.

Construction during the 80-day closure

19. More than 144 vehicles per peak hour will entry and exit the airport, adding additional traffic to the roads around Dubai International. More than 150,000 truckloads of concrete, asphalt, materials and personnel will need to be transported to and from the airport for the duration of the runway refurbishment programme.

20. More than 2,500 employees will be involved in the construction and refurbishment of the runways.

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