Over 78 million passengers visited Dubai International Airport in 2015. To put that in relative terms, that is the equivalent of the whole population of Turkey passing through one airport, or 213,698.6 passengers a day. These astonishing statistics have earned Dubai International Airport the title of “busiest airport in the world” in terms of international passenger traffic, and third busiest in absolute terms. With competition for berths increasing, it goes without saying that both airlines and passengers are starting to look for less hectic alternatives.
The neighboring Emirate’s airport, Sharjah International Airport, is just a mere 24 minute drive away via Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed road. Traditionally, the Emirate has not drawn the attention of tourists, but after years of developing a unique cultural offering, Sharjah is gaining more and more attention as a city break destination and business transfer option, especially among Middle Eastern tourists.
The Emirate has worked hard to create a business friendly environment, with legislation designed to improve ease of doing and establishing business. And now, Sharjah’s untapped investment potential is catching more eyes. This, with the overcrowding at Dubai International, is bringing more and more business to the Emirate.
Sharjah International Airport is home to multi-award winning low-cost carrier Air Arabia. The airport is spread across 3,800 acres of land and has one terminal. That being said, it is served by 43 airlines and is used by another 70 for long-haul flights.
In 2015, the airport handled 12 million passengers, which represents an 82% increase compared to five years before (in 2011 the airport saw only 6.6 million passengers). Passenger traffic at the airport is expected to increase steadily, a strong sign that Sharjah is rapidly establishing itself as a new gateway to the UAE.
Air Arabia is the big name behind the development of Sharjah’s airport from a quiet provincial airport to the third biggest in the UAE. Founded in 2003, the low-cost carrier has been profitable since its first year of operations and has been nominated “Low Cost Airline of the Year,” and “Airline of the Year—Middle East.” Its CEO, Adel Abdullah Ali, told TBY that the company’s ambition is to further expand its fleet and add numerous international destinations.
Saleh Al Aroud, Chairman of another Sharjah-based company, RUS Aviation, said in an exclusive interview with TBY; “in Dubai, you get slots and you have to be on time. This is not the case in Sharjah, where the airport is smaller in commercial terms and has a friendlier environment.”
Key to Sharjah International’s growth is that Dubai’s business-aviation sector is being crushed by large operators such as Emirates and its sister-company, budget airline flydubai. Martin Ringrose, Managing Director at Gama Aviation, serving Sharjah, told TBY that “for business aviation, Dubai airport is a victim of its own success, as the busier it gets the harder it is to operate business aircraft.”
For companies in need of a speedy and efficient service with more flexibility, Sharjah’s airport is providing a convenient and practical alternative. Airlines and passengers are becoming increasingly conscious of the problems linked to Dubai’s jam-packed airport, and are starting to realize they have a very convenient alternative a stone’s throw away. The idea of Sharjah International being a key gateway to the UAE has now become a reality.