As the $7.8bn expansion programme at Dubai International Airport kicks into gear, CEO Paul Griffiths explains why plans for the emirate’s new aerotropolis near Jebel Ali are being pushed back
Home to the Middle East’s biggest airline and responsible for some 51 million passengers per year, it is fair to say that Dubai Airport is one of the emirate’s greatest achievements. Opened in 1959 with just a single, short runway and small terminal, it has grown to become the world’s fourth busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic, with three terminals, two concourses and two runways each measuring more than 4,000 metres long. Today, it is regarded the region’s major aviation hub, and is planning on expanding further as Dubai looks towards receiving more tourists.
With this in mind, the airport’s CEO Paul Griffiths thinks it is only a matter of time before Dubai International Airport (DIA) overtakes Hong Kong, the third busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic. The Asian hub handled some 53.9 million travellers in 2011, recording just a 5.9 percent increase on 2010. “With our growth this year, which will take us to 56.5 million [passengers], about eleven percent growth, I think we will be hot on the heels of Hong Kong; we may even overtake them,” says the former managing director of London’s Gatwick. “We may end up being the third-largest airport in the world in terms of international passengers.”
The ultimate aim is for Dubai to top the leader board, beating both the current number-one, London Heathrow, which handled 68 million passengers in 2011, and the emirate’s other main rival, Paris Charles de Gaulle, which recorded more than 60 million travellers for the year. By 2018, the target is for Dubai to reach 90 million passengers by expanding the existing facilities to cater for an increasing number of planes and flights. According to Griffiths, the plan includes renovating Terminal 2 and building Concourses 3 and 4.
“During 2013, Concourse 3, which is taking shape, will boost our capacity to 75 million, and beyond that we’ve got a whole programme of capacity enhancements contained in a document called SP2020 which we published last July,” said Griffiths, referring to the company’s $7.8bn strategic expansion plan. “That document really contains our growth potential for the next eight years which would get us to a point where we have really got to number one.”
Concourse 3, which was allocated a construction budget of $3bn when the decision was made to expand the airport, will occupy an area of 528,000 sq m with 22 gates and a capacity of 19 million passengers. It will be part of the Terminal 3 complex, and provide first and business class lounges, bars and restaurants, in addition to four- and five-star hotel rooms and an 11,000 sq m shopping area. Griffiths says the concourse has been designed exclusively for Emirates, with 20 gates built especially to handle Airbus A380s. It will be similar to Concourse 2 in terms of appearance, and will be connected to the two major public levels of Concourse 2 and Terminal 3 via an automated people mover.
“Concourse 3 is in the final stages of construction,” he says. “We’ve probably got another nine months before an operational handover can take place. [So it will be] the first quarter of 2013. It will be quite a significant upgrade from what you saw when we opened Concourse 2 in 2008. Of the new gates, eighteen are double height air bridges so you can board from the top level and the bottom level.”
Around the same time will be the opening of Terminal 2, he adds, which is being expanded on the north side of the airfield to accommodate the growth of low-cost carrier FlyDubai. Griffiths says the new terminal will open in April.
The remainder of the expansion is obviously dominated by plans for Concourse 4, which is due to be constructed on the south side of the airfield in the cargo village area. The additional concourse, which is in the last stages of the initial design concept, is due to be completed around 2015-2016, and will significantly increase the capacity of the airport.
“We’ve agreed a concept, method of operation and general layout, we’ll be going into detail once those specifications have been finalised and then obviously the project will go out to tender,” says Griffiths. “[For completion], 2015-2016 is what we’re targeting. The idea is that it will cater for all the non emirates international airlines, giving us about eighteen additional gates. This will allow Concourse 1, which is attached to Terminal 1, to be used exclusively by emirates. It’s about half and half at the moment.
He adds that the senior management are also eyeing some difference in design features with the new concourse. “We are looking at having quite a high quality terminal, with some interesting design features. We’re trying to get some solar incorporated in the design. The aim is to try and get some accreditation which would be the first for Dubai. We’re linking it to Terminal 1 with an APM.”
Article continued on next page