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DXB retains 'number one' title

Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on February 5, 2020
DXB retains number one title

(KT file)

Dubai International (DXB) has retained its position as the world's number one hub for international passengers for the sixth consecutive year by welcoming 86.4 million passengers in 2019.

Latest official data shows that the DXB received six million more passengers compared to second-placed London Heathrow airport despite a slight decline of 3.1 per cent in annual traffic due to temporary runway closure, collapse of India's Jet Airways, and the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Analysts and aviation experts said Dubai International will overcome these challenges and surpass 90 million passengers this year.

"While customer numbers in 2019 were lower than the preceding year, the impact of the 45-day closure of the runway, the bankruptcy of Jet Airways, as well as the grounding of the Boeing's 737 MAX accounted for an estimated 3.2 million passengers over the course of the year, and indicate underlying growth at DXB," Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said in a statement to Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, said Dubai International experienced a fall in traffic during 2019, but it still remained by far and away the world most busiest international airport, catering for over 86.4 million passengers. The airport received 89.15 million passengers in 2018.

"A slew of factors impacted traffic during the year, starting off with the collapse of Jet Airways quickly followed by over a months worth of runway repairs, leaving the airport short on capacity as it operated with just one runway for both take-offs and landings," Ahmad told Khaleej Times.

Key facts and figures

DXB welcomed a total of 86,396,757 for the full year of 2019, reflecting a slight decline of 3.1 per cent. It is the first fall in the number of passengers at Dubai International since at least 2000, according to figures from Dubai Statistics Centre, a government agency.

During the fourth quarter of 2019, DXB welcomed 21.9 million customers (1.3 per cent), taking the average monthly passenger numbers at the hub to 7.2 million for the year. The airport also breached the 8-million customer mark twice during the year (July and August).

DXB to maintain its supremacy

Saj Ahmad also said the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet worldwide has meant that big operators of the type such as flydubai have had their organic growth severely curtailed as they have sought to lease in jets to mitigate against this sharp exit of capacity during peak traffic times over the summer period.

Moreover, Emirates had also inducted fewer new widebodies in 2019 compared to previous years, whilst retiring early examples of the 777-300ER, its not hard to see why overall traffic at Dubai International was affected, he said.

"Had these factors not been in play, performance would be significantly different. While the 737 MAX situation means that there is no definitive timeline for it to re-enter service with flydubai, it is likely that this year, Dubai International will eclipse the 90 million passenger mark and maintain its regional and international dominance going forward," he said.

"With new technology and passenger amenities continually being introduced at the airport, DXB will be looking to 2020 as a hugely positive year, notwithstanding the launch of Dubai's 2020 Expo towards the last quarter. All in, 2020 looks to be a very robust year for the airport," Ahmad said.

New airlines

To a question about introduction of new airlines in the UAE during second half of 2020 and its impact on Dubai International traffic, Saj said it will be good for the competition.

"With new entrants into the UAE and specifically into Dubai Airport, not only will there be added competition for all airlines, but passengers will benefit from additional choice and better fares across city pairs," he said.

Dubai International is rather unique in that despite being the worlds busiest gateway, it has encouraged the proliferation of new market entrants to ensure that choice is a primary factor for travellers - most airports tend to favour existing incumbents or pile up cost prohibitive barriers to entry - not so with DXB, he said.

"This too is another key element as to why 2020 will be a highly prosperous year for Dubai International," Ahmad concluded.

Top destinations

India retained its position as the top destination country for DXB by passenger numbers, with traffic for 2019 reaching 11.9 million, followed by Saudi Arabia with 6.3 million customers, and the United Kingdom finishing a close third with 6.2 million customers.

Other destination countries of note include China (3.6 million customers) and the US (3.2 million). The top three cities were London (3.6 million customers), Mumbai (2.3 million customers) and Riyadh with 2.2 million customers.


DXB handled 97,379 movements during the fourth quarter, reflecting a decline of 4.5 per cent, bringing the annual flight movements to 373,261 - a decline of 8.6 per cent, while the average number of customers per flight increased to 239, up 5.8 per cent annually.

Waiting Times

Wait times were reduced by 15 per cent in 2019, thanks to DXB's advanced operations centre which uses real time information from more than 50 systems across the facility to enhance efficiency and service, as well as the new smart gates that help speed customers through passport control.

Baggage volumes

As many as 73.1 million bags passed through the airport's 175km long baggage system during 2019 with a record delivery success rate of 99.96 per cent.


DXB handled 659,167 tonnes of cargo in the fourth quarter (-7 per cent) with the annual airfreight volume reaching 2,514,918 tonnes (-4.8 per cent) during 2019.


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