Dubai opens what will be world’s biggest airport

Dubai has officially opened it’s second airport  – and it’s this one that’s due to become the biggest airport in the world, and not the mind-bogglingly massive one that already exists and just seems to keep on getting bigger.

Only a few weeks ago, Dubai-based carrier Emirates placed an unprecedented order worth US$11.5 billion for a total of 32 A380 aircraft from Airbus at the Berlin ILA Air Show.

The first plane landed on the sole runway of the Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International Airport – named after the emirate’s ruling family, Dubai Airports said in a statement. Three air freight companies have begun operations from the new airport with 12 others due to follow, it said.

The first phase be confined to freight traffic, with a capacity to handle 250,000 tonnes annually while passenger traffic was scheduled to begin in March 2011, with an annual capacity of five million passengers.

A model showing the planned development of the new airport at a Dubai development expo

“We have achieved another important step towards completing the airport,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the head of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

The new airport is being constructed in an area of Dubai called Jebel Ali, located on the outskirts of the emirate towards Abu Dhabi. It is not known what will become of the existing Dubai International Airport located on the far side of the emirate towards Sharjah.

Known as DWC-Al Maktoum International, it is touted to become the world’s largest airport when completed at an undisclosed date amd authorities said that when it is all up and running the new airport will be able to handle 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo, and have five runways.

Dubai, a city of around two million people, already boasts the biggest airport in the Middle East, which handled 42 million passengers in 2009 – a figure expected to surge to 100 million by 2020, said Jamal al-Hai, Dubai Airports Senior Vice President for Strategic Affairs.

“Our development follows a strategy aimed at turning Dubai into the centre of the new silk route,” linking east to west, he said.

Dubai has worked hard to establish itself as a popular tourist destination and a regional business hub and air transport accounts for over 25 per cent of the emirate’s gross domestic product. The capacity of the current Dubai airport stands at 65 million passengers, and should increase to 75 million in 2012 with the completion of the third concourse that will be exclusively used by the A380 superjumbos.

According to a spokesman, “Emirates will be announcing new aircraft orders at the Farnborough Airshow” in England, which opens on July 19. The UAE carrier is also the largest single operator of the Boeing 777 with 85 units in service and 21 on order.

Emirates announced in May a mammoth 416-per cent surge in annual net profit, equating to US$964 million in the past financial year, bucking the current trend in the industry where other airlines are still struggling. And only two weeks ago, the Emirates CEO, Maurice Flanagan, received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Scott Snowden

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