World's busiest airport: How DXB manages nearly 200,000 passengers every day

Key focus of Dubai Airports is to provide best service to every single traveller


Waheed Abbas

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KT photos by Neeraj Murali
KT photos by Neeraj Murali

Published: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 5:30 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 8:28 PM

Dubai International (DXB) on average handles more than 181,000 passengers and processes over 170,400 bags every day. Ever wondered how things keep ticking at the world’s busiest airport?

Khaleej Times was given exclusive access to the airport’s control centre – a hi-tech operations hub that monitors and can predict the inflow of passengers. With a bird’s eye view of the operations, dozens of team members of Dubai Airports and its partner dnata, a ground-handling services provider, track minute-by-minute movement of ground handling facilities, arrival and departure of the flights, movement of the arriving and departing passengers, cargo and luggage.

It helps authorities plan accordingly and deploy resources in cooperation with partners for smoother passenger and baggage flow.

Huge screens dotted with aircraft and loads of data of inbound and outbound aircraft at the Control Centre’s walls assist staff members in managing the flow of passengers and their luggage.

“It is all about providing the right resource at the right type – not too much, not too little – and that maximises the capacity… Having data gives insight into what is happening, why is happening and why it’s not happening as expected,” Kan Ni, vice-president, Airport Operations Control Centre (AOCC) at Dubai Airports, told Khaleej Times.

A state-of-the-art infrastructure, highly skilled professionals, and an extensive network of partners ensure a seamless, smooth flow of passengers and their luggage. As a result, there was an average waiting time of less than five minutes at departure passport control for a majority of the passengers; and 45 minutes for baggage delivery.

Ni credits its partners such as customs, police, dnata, airlines (especially Emirates and flydubai), immigration and others for the seamless operations.

Strong post-Covid-19 recovery pushed passenger traffic up by 127 per cent at Dubai International to over 66 million in 2022, prompting Dubai Airports to lift the forecast for 2023 to 78 million. Total annual flight movements at DXB in 2022 totalled 343,339, a year-on-year growth of 47 per cent. The average number of passengers per flight reached 204, up 33 per cent year-on-year.

Peak ops

During peak times, different teams successfully handle operations of the three DXB terminals 24x7, and during peak days, up to 1,100 flights are handled per day with a very minimum margin.

The advanced technology deployed by Dubai Airports provides it with details of the number of passengers and bags onboard the incoming flight beforehand, thus, helping to plan for a smoother operation and deploying resources accordingly.

According to Ni, it’s all about the right people having the right data. “We don’t want personal data here. We care about where they are going, the timings, and loads.”

Divided into two portions, one section of the Airport Operations Control Centre is dedicated to the dnata team for close coordination related to service, towing trucks, cleaning and all the luggage handling.

Smooth baggage flows

“In real time, we know through our Baggage Flow Model (BFM) the number of bags in each flight and also their destinations as DXB is an important transit hub as well. One flight, for example, is coming with 100 bags and they have to go to 20 different destinations, that one plane has to connect to 20 different planes. So each bag has a journey to get to the next plane. The systems can predict which bag is in danger of missing that connection and it identifies, thus, ensuring that it doesn’t miss the flight,” he said.

Thanks to efficient operations by Dubai Airports and it's service partners, DXB boasts a success rate of 99.8% for baggage delivery.

In case of a leftover bag that has been separated from a passenger, Ni said, it is ensured that the baggage is put on the next available flight so that it reaches the passenger. “In Dubai, we are lucky that if your bags didn’t make it to you, there is a great service available that they deliver it to your house. All bags are tagged and passengers can see and track it if they’re separated.”

He stressed that the key focus of Dubai Airports is to provide the best possible service to every single passenger such as making the journey seamless and reducing touchpoints and unnecessary interface or document checks.


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