Dubai Airports CEO on the city’s mega-airport of the future
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Dubai Airports CEO on how the firm is bolstering the city’s super-hub status

Dubai Airports CEO on how the firm is bolstering the city’s super-hub status

Paul Griffiths says the airport operator will actively collaborate with airline customers, the government, and stakeholders to bring the Al Maktoum International Airport Project to fruition

Kudakwashe Muzoriwa
Dubai Airports CEO on mega-airport of the future

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved plans for a new $34.85bn (Dhs128bn) passenger terminal at Dubai World Central (DWC), also known as Al Maktoum International Airport, part of a broader strategy to alleviate pressure on the city’s main airport as passenger numbers have skyrocketed.

The emirate’s main international airport, Dubai International (DXB), is expected to receive 90 million passengers this year, and the authorities plan to relocate operations to DWC once the airport’s capacity hits 120 million.

With plans to become the world’s biggest passenger handler in the next 10 years, Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport will be the largest travel hub in the world with a projected annual capacity of as many as 260 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo.

On completion, Al Maktoum International Airport will be five times the size of the current DXB, covering 70 square km (27 square miles). The airport will include 400 terminal gates and five runways and will be the new home of flagship carrier Emirates and its sister low-cost airline flydubai along with all airline partners connecting the world to and from Dubai.

Here, Griffiths talks about the future demand for air travel via Dubai, future travel experiences, the emirate’s economic growth and the rise of its aviation sector.

Q. Dubai recently unveiled phase two of DWC’s expansion. How do you expect this to revolutionise the aviation sector, both in the Middle East region and globally?

Al Maktoum International Airport’s expansion plan represents a significant leap forward for the Middle East’s aviation sector and offers a transformative opportunity to make a profound impact on the global aviation industry. With upgraded infrastructure and expanded capacity, DWC is poised to address the future needs of the aviation sector in terms of scale, scope, and evolution.

We are confident that air travel through Dubai will continue to thrive and, as the industry evolves over the next decade and beyond, we are prepared to adapt to the changes. DWC will solidify Dubai’s position as a vital gateway to the world, fostering increased connectivity, trade, tourism, and economic growth, within the region and globally.

Q. Give us insight into Dubai Airports’ preparations to start the construction of the new passenger terminal.

 The expansion project at DWC represents an unprecedented undertaking, marked by its vast scale, intricate complexities, and multifaceted objectives.

With DWC slated to be five times larger than DXB, its cutting-edge technology will redefine the airport experience and it will be the airport of the future. Initially designed to accommodate 150 million passengers annually, the eventual capacity expansion of DWC to cater to up to 260 million passengers per year underscores its monumental significance.

To realise this ambitious vision, flexibility, creativity, and collaboration are key. We will need to continue to work closely with all our stakeholders, including airlines, commercial partners, government agencies, and control authorities, to address every aspect of the project’s operational philosophy, from ground transport relationships to refining the end-to-end customer experience.

Q. The aviation sector has evolved significantly over the years. How do you plan to incorporate sustainability and technology into the new hub to ensure its future readiness?

As the aviation sector continues to evolve rapidly, sustainability and technology are at the forefront of our vision for the new hub. Despite the ten-year timeline, we are committed to anticipating and embracing innovations that may not yet exist.

We aim to pioneer a departure from legacy processes, setting a new standard for the industry. This strategic decision will not only enhance Dubai’s position as the world’s preferred aviation hub but also reinforce our leadership in the sector.

From artificial intelligence to new aircraft technology, DWC’s operating model will embrace cutting-edge technology, transforming the guest experience. Significant investments in automation will elevate our customer service standards and overall efficiency.

Sustainable practices will be integrated into the terminal design, aligning with our commitment to environmental responsibility. We’re dedicated to continuing to invest in initiatives such as solar power, waste treatment, and biofuels, recognising the importance of addressing climate change and ensuring a sustainable future.

Q. Tell us more about the design philosophy, and how will it advance customer experience and make passengers’ journeys as seamless and pleasant as possible.

Our approach to airport design at DWC is rooted in rethinking the essence of airports – ensuring smooth transitions from ground to air. This means creating a state-of-the-art facility that not only meets the evolving needs of air travel but also exceeds customer expectations.

As we progress, collaboration with airlines, partners, and stakeholders will refine our design philosophy, ensuring the airport delivers a quick, convenient, and high-quality 21st-century experience. Seamless integration of transportation modes will be prioritised, facilitating efficient transitions between ground and air travel for all our guests.

Q. What does the future hold for DXB within the next decade?

DXB remains firmly positioned as a global leader, setting the standard for exceptional guest experiences and international aviation excellence, and we will work to ensure we continue to play that role until the new airport is open and the move to DWC is complete.

Over the next decade, it’s important that DXB is refreshed to continue to provide our guests with a consistently seamless airport experience.

We have several projects in the pipeline to spruce up parts of the facility and expand DXB’s capacity from 90 million plus now to about 120 million passengers per annum in the coming years. This will be done through process optimisation and the use of technology instead of building new facilities, which is not possible anymore due to space constraints.

Q. DXB registered a 31.7 per cent increase in passenger traffic to 86.9 million in 2023. What is your passenger’s forecast for 2024?

2023 was an exceptional year for DXB and is a testament to our unwavering commitment to operational excellence, efficiency, innovation and delivering exemplary guest experience. In 2024, we expect the traffic to hit 90 million for the year, surpassing our previous all-time high record of 89.1 million guests set in 2018.

Q. The aviation sector is a major contributor to the UAE’s economy. How do you expect the new travel hub to contribute to the country’s economic diversification strategy?

This ten-year plan underscores the direct relationship between the UAE’s economic growth and the rise of its aviation sector. As a cornerstone of the country’s economic diversification efforts and Dubai’s D33 economic agenda, the new travel hub at Al Maktoum International Airport is poised to significantly contribute to the country’s economic landscape.

By attracting more visitors, businesses, and investments, DWC will drive job creation, innovation, and prosperity, aligning with the UAE and Dubai’s grand vision for a sustainable and diversified economy.

Read: Dubai Airports revises 2024 projections on the back of record Q1 passenger traffic

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