Dubai airport traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels

The world’s busiest airport for international passengers raises its forecast for this year by 1.5 million to 64.3 million after passenger traffic nearly tripled in the third quarter from the same period last year


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Tue 22 Nov 2022, 6:30 PM

Dubai Airports on Tuesday revised upward passenger traffic forecast for 2022 after Dubai International (DXB) airport’s traffic returned to the pre-pandemic level in the third quarter.

The world’s busiest airport for international passengers before the Covid-19 pandemic received 18.455 million visitors during the July-September quarter, the biggest number since 17.8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

In a statement on Tuesday, the airport also raised its forecast for this year by 1.5 million to 64.3 million after passenger traffic nearly tripled in the third quarter from the same period last year.

“The growth in passenger traffic has been terrific throughout the year and continues to exceed our expectations by a margin. While we are thrilled with the numbers, what really gives us immense satisfaction is how the airport community is working together like a well-oiled machine to keep raising the bar on service quality,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports.

He said the recovery in passengers travelling directly to and from Dubai, rather than transiting the UAE’s commercial capital, had “exceeded our expectations”.

“The recovery of the point-to-point market, people coming to and from Dubai, has been faster than the transfer market,” Griffiths told AFP.

“That’s understandable because a lot of the transfer market, particularly in Southeast Asia, Australasia and China took a long, long time to recover,” he said.

Q4 to be even better

Griffiths said annual projections stand at 77.8 million for next year and 87.4 million for 2024, which would beat the pre-pandemic level of 86.4 million seen in 2019.

The annual figure is projected to rise to a record 93.3 million passengers in 2025, beating the current mark of 89.2 million set in 2018.

The airport, where maximum capacity is 118-120 million, handled 46.3 million passengers from January to September, up 167.6 per cent year-on-year basis and 72 per cent of the number recorded in the same period of 2019.

“We’re optimistic that Q4 will be even better than Q3 because the numbers that we’re seeing coming through now are exceeding our projections,” Griffiths said.

The 2022 traffic forecast had been raised to 62.8 million from 62.4 million with third-quarter results.

Fifa World Cup beneficiary

Dubai Airports is among the major beneficiaries of the Fifa World Cup in Doha as Dubai-based fans are using dozens of daily flights to Doha out of Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), which expects nearly half a million passengers in the fourth quarter.

"DWC’s capacity is 26.5 million and could rise to as much as 240 million in the long term, possibly replacing DXB,” Griffiths said.

In reply to a question about the listing of Dubai Airports, he said valuations for airport initial public offerings (IPOs) around the world had been really healthy.

“That is a decision that the Dubai government and my boss, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, I’m sure is considering at the moment, but that’s obviously for them to decide,” Griffiths said.

Key facts and figures

Passenger volumes at DXB recorded a triple-digit surge in the third quarter to reach 18,455,938, propelling the year-to-date September traffic to 46,340,826 passengers, a year-on-year increase of 167.6 per cent. The year-to-date traffic volume represents 72 per cent of DXB’s pre-pandemic passenger traffic during the same period in 2019.

India was Dubai airport’s top country destination in terms of traffic volume, recording 6.8 million passengers in the first nine months of the year.

Saudi Arabia was placed second with 3.4m passengers followed by the UK (3.2m passengers) and Pakistan (2.7m passengers). Other country markets of note were the US and Australia with 2.2m and 1.1m in passenger traffic respectively. The top three cities by traffic were London (2m passengers), Riyadh (1.5m) and Mumbai (1.3m).

DXB recorded 397,676 tonnes of freight in the Q3, bringing the total volume for the first nine months of 2022 to 1,307,691 tonnes, a year-on-year drop of 23.3 per cent.

Flight movements in Q3 surged to 98,577 at DXB, propelling the number of flight movements recorded between January and September to 274,911, up 159.5 per cent year-on-year.


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