Dubai's Al Maktoum to be business aviation hub from 2013

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Members of the media and officials walk on the runway in front of an Emirates Airlines plane during the media tour of Dubai's new second airport, Dubai World Central or Al-Maktoum International.

Members of the media and officials walk on the runway in front of an Emirates Airlines plane during the media tour of Dubai's new second airport, Dubai World Central or Al-Maktoum International.

Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA) is set to become the emirate’s main business aviation hub from 2013 in a bid to reduce congestion at Dubai International Airport, officials said at a press conference.

“I am proud to announce the commencement of business aviation operations from DWC (Dubai World Central) starting early 2013,” Rashed Bu Qara’a, chief operating officer at Dubai Aviation City Corporation, told reporters.

“This is part of the long-term migration strategy of shifting general aviation from Dubai International Airport to Al Maktoum International Airport. During this initial phase, we will utilise the VIP terminal within the passenger terminal. Shortly thereafter, we expect the first business aviation operations to commence out of DWC’s Aviation District in mid 2013,” he added.

Bu Qara’a said it was imperative business aviation services moved to AMIA from Dubai International: “There is a problem there as far as the capacity and we as business aviation is suffering at Dubai International Airport because of the slots.

“Business aviation flies on demand, this is not the case at Dubai International, so business aviation has to move from there,” he believed.

At present, two business aviation firms operate from Dubai International, but this will initially be increased to five at AMIA. “After reaching maybe 20,000 [flight] movements per year we will introduce the sixth operator,” he added.

In the year to date, total aircraft movements at AMIA rose from 5,403 in 2011 to 11,571 during the same period in 2012 - an increase of 114 percent, DWC said in November.

Dubai Airports’ CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business in an interview in March full commercial operations were likely to stay at Dubai International for the foreseeable future.

“The original [plan] was to have some capacity online for 2017, we’ve pushed that back by about ten years... something around [2027],” he said.

“The passenger terminal is ready go at any time once the government chooses to open,” Khalifa Al Zaffin, executive chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said in relation to AMIA, adding that the airport did not face any financial constraints and an announcement on the moving of commercial operations from Dubai International would be made soon.

“I don’t think there are any financial problems… The passenger terminal is ready to go and has been tested. A decision or announcement of the exact date will be made very soon,” Al Zaffin said.

This year, freight through DWC increased 178 percent from 59,204 tonnes in the first nine months of 2011 to 164,757 tonnes during the same period this year. Al Zaffin said this was likely to reach 200,000 tonnes by the end of 2012.

So far, around AED20bn (US$5.44bn) has been spent on the first phase of the development, with AED1.5bn coming from private investors, officials said. While this represents around a tenth of the overall project, AMIA is expected to be able to handle around 120m passengers a year when it is complete.

“I think what we are building now is good enough for a few years to come… Our hand is always on the trigger to see how it is going and we are looking to two years at what is coming. We always have a plan and an eye on the future,” Al Zaffin said.

AMIA will host the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) from December 11 to 13. Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association, said the number of attendees is forecast to increase from 6,200 in 2011 to 7,500 this year.

The number of exhibitors is set to grow from 338 from 33 countries in 2011 to 385 exhibitors from around 40 countries this year, while the number of aircraft on show will rise to 55.

Speaking at the DWS press conference, Al Naqbi said he was upbeat about the prospects for the business aviation sector in the Middle East in the coming years.

“I am very confident that we will see a return to a double digit [growth] very, very soon. By 2018, business aviation alone in the Middle East will be expected to be worth US1bn.”

Middle East airlines continued their dominance in October, posting world-best figures for passenger and cargo growth, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

According to latest figures released in October, carriers in the region reported traffic growth at 12.4 percent year-on-year.

Middle East airlines also posted a 13.4 percent rise in cargo traffic which came on an 8.6 percent rise in capacity, raising load factor two percent to 46.4 percent.

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