Dubai International (DXB) saw its 2018 passenger traffic increase 1 per cent to reach 89.1 million compared to 88.2 million in the previous year, missing its target of 90.3 million due to a slowdown in Gulf economies amid lower oil prices. It is the slowest growth for Dubai airport in the past decade.
Dubai became the world's busiest airport for international passenger traffic in 2014 when it overtook London's Heathrow Airport.
Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, said the expansion of phase one of Dubai World Central was completed last year and it now has the capacity to handle 26 million passengers per year. It also reached the milestone 1-billion mark last year.
"Enhancing and controlling our costs are the essential elements which will allow us to grow our business and contribute to Dubai's economy. In 2018, our revenues reached record highs," Griffiths said in a video statement.
"We have to raise our game. We have got to find new ways of creating more capacity and better service quality from the limited space we have available in our facilities," he said.
Commenting on growth in DXB passenger traffic, Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research in London, said home-grown airlines Emirates and flydubai proved instrumental in delivering economic growth to the city.
"Performance for 2019 is expected to be influenced by the several-week shutdown of one runway for resurfacing work and while airlines will have to temper their schedules, it stands to reason that the biggest incumbent operators like Emirates and flydubai will be impacted most," Ahmad said, adding "for that reason, it's likely that DXB will probably not break records in 2019, however, it is still poised to remain the world's number one airport despite its infrastructure improvements that will provide many future years of efficient operations."
Dubai Airports will close DXB's Southern Runway for an upgrade between April 16 and May 30, 2019, hence reducing the number of flights to and from Dubai International. Emirates airline announced that it would cut 25 per cent of its flights during the upgrade.
Aviation plays key role
On Monday, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE's Minister of Economy and chairman of General Civil Aviation Authority, highlighted the growing role of the aviation sector in the UAE's economy with total investments reaching Dh1 trillion.
"Our forecasts show that there is a further $23 billion of investment in the country's aviation infrastructure to come. We expect that over the next few years, the aviation sector will account for 20 per cent of the UAE's GDP from its current contribution of 15 per cent," Al Mansouri said during his inaugural speech at the Global Investment in Aviation Summit held in Dubai.
He pointed out that 882 aircraft are registered in the UAE, of which more than half - 503 - are registered under UAE national carriers and a further 630 aircraft are on order for future delivery.
December traffic falls
According to Dubai Airports, in December 2018, passenger traffic at DXB fell 1.7 per cent to 7.72 million year on year.
India remained the top destination last year with 12.28 million passengers, with most visitors coming from Mumbai, Delhi and Cochin. Saudi Arabia came at number two with 6.47 million passengers, followed by the UK at 6.28 million. Other key markets were the US (3.2 million), China (3.5 million) and Russia (1.53 million).
London was the top city with 3.81 million visitors, followed by Mumbai at 2.54 million and Kuwait at 2.19 million.
Flight movements witnessed a slight drop of 0.3 per cent to 408,251, while the average number of customers per flight grew slightly to 226. Wait times were reduced by 28 per cent in 2018, thanks to DXB's advanced operations centre which uses real-time information to improve service and efficiency, as well as the smart gates that help speed customers through immigration. It handled 2.64 million tonnes of airfreight, a slight decline of 0.5 per cent. Baggage volumes grew 3.1 per cent to 74.9 million last year.