Dubai’s major airport project, the US$34bn Al Maktoum International Airport, is likely to begin full commercial passenger services from 2027, the CEO of Dubai Airports has said.
Part of the Dubai World Central (DWC) logistics complex, the new airport will replace Dubai International as the Middle East’s major aviation hub, and is scheduled to be the world’s largest airport by the time it opens.
“The original [plan] was to have some capacity online for 2017, we’ve pushed that back by about ten years... something around ,” Dubai Airports’ CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business in an interview.
“The idea is to build a facility that’s large enough so that Emirates and other airlines could move, not necessarily at the same time, but within a fairly short timeframe.”
Dubai Airports slowed its development of Al Maktoum International in the wake of the global financial crisis, which halted a number of big-ticket projects as government agencies around the emirate struggled to pay trade creditors.
The revised plan included spending US$7.8bn to increase capacity at the existing facility, in a bid to boost cashflow for the new project and maintain Dubai’s status as home to the world’s fourth largest airport.
“Economics have changed enormously in the last four years and obviously we have had to adapt,” said Griffiths.
“We’re changing the timeline and order we bring the facilities online so that there’s more generated cash from this airfield... and a longer timeline to invest. Both of those things will make the cashflow support that we require for the development [of Al Maktoum] much more manageable.
“We [also] realised that during the construction period, if we didn’t have any capacity growth at Dubai International, the opportunity we would be losing to other airports of growing passenger traffic would be significant.”
By the middle of the next decade, the aim is to have a capacity for 80m passengers at the new airport, allowing Dubai’s state-owned carrier Emirates to move its entire operation to the new hub.
The immediate focus is to increase cargo operations at the second airport, and see its first commercial passenger flight at some point this year.
“We have a passenger terminal building at the moment there which we are readying for operation during the course of 2012 but that’s only got a capacity of around 7m passengers, so it’s nowhere near adequate for the Emirates operation.
“The aim is that as soon as we’ve got business for it and its ready for use we will open it… We’ve had a number of discussions with different airlines about potential operations, but passenger airlines tend to plan their operations quite late, so it’s quite likely we’ll be announcing quite late what the plans are for the passenger operation.
He added that the airport had recently announced plans to develop more cargo terminals at Al Maktoum, of a similar size to the existing shed which can handle around 250,000 tonnes of cargo per year.
“The good thing about DWC is that we’ve got plenty of space to build additional facilities.
“We’re looking at developing another two plots, this will give us [a capacity of about] 750,000 tonnes.”