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Dubai airport chief says passengers exceed pre-pandemic level


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Passenger numbers at Dubai International Airport exceeded pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2022, the airport’s chief executive said, forcing the airport to revise its annual forecast of another million passengers.

Paul Griffiths, who oversees the world’s busiest airport, told The Associated Press that the annual forecast at Dubai International, or DXB, is over 64 million. The airport handled 18.5 million passengers in the third quarter of this year, compared to 17.8 million in the first quarter of 2020 – before and on the eve of the pandemic. Most of the growth, he said, came from the traditional markets of India, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Griffiths added that the end of COVID-19 testing requirements and people’s eagerness to travel have contributed to the increase.

“Recovery is very much on the agenda and has been a phenomenon here since the pandemic ended,” Griffiths said.

The new figures are good news for Dubai’s tourism-driven economy, which accounts for around 12% of the small nation’s GDP. A year ago, in the third quarter, 6.7 million people passed through the airport.

Still, the figure is a far cry from the pre-pandemic milestone of 86.4 million annual traffic recorded by the airport in 2019.

The 46 million passengers who passed through DXB in the first nine months of this year represent 72% of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels. Griffiths says they expect to reach pre-pandemic levels every year by 2023.

The largest share of traffic to Dubai came from India, with 6.8 million travelers, followed by Saudi Arabia, with 3.4 million travelers this year. Pakistan and the United States are a key growth market for travel to and from Dubai.

The UAE is home to over 100,000 British citizens. Dubai’s main airport recorded 3.2 million passengers from the UK until September this year, making it the third largest traffic share.

About 60% of Dubai Airport’s traveler numbers this year represent arrivals, with the rest passing through.

The first World Cup in the Middle East, currently taking place in Qatar, according to Griffiths, is expected to add 494,000 passengers at Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) in the fourth quarter of the year. Currently, 120 daily flights are operational from DWC for FIFA fans to commute between matches in Doha and Dubai.

Qatar Airways offers 60 daily flights to ferry football fans to the tournament, while the other 60 are operated by low-cost airline FlyDubai, he said.

Ambitious plans to turn Dubai’s southern desert airfield into a mega aviation hub, first unveiled by Dubai before the 2008 global financial crisis, have exploded in recent years. Dubai-based long-haul carrier Emirates parked many of its double-decker Airbus A380s there during the pandemic as commercial flights were halted.

Now, Griffiths says the air travel market continues to rebound globally, with more people traveling as mobility returns around the world.

This year, 275,000 flights passed through DXB, up 159% from 2021.

The widespread lifting of virus restrictions in Dubai has triggered a rapid increase in demand for air travel, filling the Dubai hub. Griffiths says it has also contributed positively to the city’s economy.


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