Dubai builds world’s largest airport for 260 million passengers a year

With 400 gates, five parallel runways, five passenger terminals, and an area of 70 km², Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport is set to become the largest airport in the world. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, gave the go-ahead for the ambitious construction plans this week.

An investment of nearly 35 billion euros is attached to the expansion of Al Maktoum, which is currently the desert city’s second airport. The airport in the south of the city would also become five times the size of Dubai International Airport (DXB), currently the city’s main airport. Up to 260 million passengers a year are expected.

“The airport of the world”

The mega project aims to gradually transfer all operations of DXB, which, with 87 million passengers a year, is the world’s busiest airport after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to Al Maktoum International (DWC) over the next few years.

The project’s first phase is expected to be ready within ten years and will have a capacity to accommodate 150 million passengers annually.

A completely new city would also be built around the airport where “it will host the world’s leading companies in the logistics and air transport sector,” the Dubai Ruler said. “Dubai will become the airport of the world and the new global center,” the emir wrote on messaging service X.

The airport would generate estimated workforce and residential requirements for over a million people living and working in Dubai South. The new airport would also use technologies that were never used in the aviation sector.

Colossal CO2 footprint

No word is said about the ecological footprint of this expansion, but it will undoubtedly be enormous. DXB’s 87 million passengers emit more than 16,65 million tons of CO2 annually – one of the world’s highest totals of any airport.

Unlike most airports in Europe, the Emirates is subject to less stringent environmental and climate constraints, allowing for easier and more robust growth in aviation.

However, according to several aviation experts, the country’s main aim is to benefit from its central location between just about every continent. For example, many Europeans flying to an Asian destination have already stopped by Dubai.

Such stopovers are lucrative for an airport, making it a formidable competitor to Frankfurt Airport, Istanbul Airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport, and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Europe’s most connected airport. And especially in Asia, another strong growth in the aviation sector is expected. Moreover, paraffin prices in Dubai are relatively low due to local availability and lower transport and production costs.

Less dependent on oil

In the Dutch newspaper Het Parool, aviation economist Rogies Lieshout says Dubai wants to diversify its economy, and the airport’s expansion should be seen in that context. “Dubai wants to become less dependent on oil. Upgrading the aviation sector will attract new business,” said Lieshout, who also questions the feasibility of the Emirates’ ambitious plans.

“Dubai has previously failed to fulfill its growth ambitions. Moreover, competition in the region is only increasing. Turkey and Saudi Arabia also have ambitious expansion plans with their airports.”

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