Dubai International Airport has become the third busiest in the world, overtaking Hong Kong International Airport.
More than 57.6m passengers passed through Dubai International last year, a 13.2 percent increase compared to 2011, the airport’s annual traffic report, released on Monday, said.
The airport is closing in on its target to overtake London’s Heathrow as the busiest in the world by 2015.
Heathrow is near its capacity of 68m passengers a year, while Dubai International is expected to accommodate 90m people per year by 2018.
Dubai’s growth has been rapid, rising from the 99th largest international airport only 11 years ago.
The world’s largest A380 facility opened at Dubai International's Terminal 3 in early January, while the airport’s freight capacity is due to be expanded by 25 percent to 1.5m tonnes per by 2018.
Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffith said the international airport would soon become the busiest in the world.
“Moving into the top three is a fantastic achievement for Dubai International and we now have London’s Heathrow and the number one spot firmly within our sights,” he said.
“The opening of Concourse A, the world’s first purpose-built A380 facility, has given us the room to maintain our strong growth into the new year, with a forecast of 65.4m passengers in 2013.
“However, our rapid growth is not without its challenges and we will use the breathing room created by the phased opening of Concourse A to stress test every aspect of our service in the next year and put in place long-term processes that will put Dubai International on track to becoming the best airport in the world in addition to being the busiest.”
Last year’s passenger numbers surpassed the airport’s expectations of 56.5m.
A record 5.32m passengers used Dubai International in December. It was only the second month in the airport’s 52-year history that passenger traffic exceeded 5m people.
Aircraft movements also rose in 2012, reaching 344,245, an increase of 5.5 percent.
Flights between Dubai and South America were the fastest growing market – up 99.4 percent - due to the introduction of Emirates flights to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
Russia and the CIS was the second fastest growing region (up 36.9 percent), followed by Australasia (up 21.9 percent) and other Gulf countries (up 19.4 percent).
New Emirates Airline flights to Washington, Dallas Fort Worth and Seattle during the year saw North American passenger traffic grow 18.6 percent, making it the fifth fastest growing region.
India remained Dubai International’s single biggest country destination in terms of passenger numbers, which grew 7.4 percent to 7.34m passengers in 2012.
Traffic was bolstered by the introduction of low-cost SpiceJet, which added new flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi and Ahmedabad to Dubai. Air India Express, Indigo and Emirates also added new flights and destinations during the year.
Freight volumes rebounded towards the end of last year, helping total volumes for 2012 rise 3.9 percent to 2.28 tonnes.
A report by aviation data analyst OAG released last August showed Dubai had recorded the fastest growth among major global air hubs, with a 12 percent increase in flight operations and 14 percent increase in seat capacity.