THE ONLY WAY IS UP

Dubai 2016 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: AL MAKTOUM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Coined by its developers as the benchmark for modern airports, Dubai's Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) is on its way to becoming the world's largest passenger and cargo airport.

Al Maktoum Airport is the centerpiece of the Dubai South project (formerly known as Dubai World Central), a strategic initiative that combines residential, leisure, exhibition, commercial, and transportation developments. The multiphase 140sqkm urban infrastructure project is set to provide direct access through sea, air, and land using an integrated logistics platform operating along a corridor connecting the Port of Jebel Ali, Jafza, and Dubai South forming a single custom bonded free zone.

Inaugurated in 2010 and mainly used for cargo operations, Al Maktoum International Airport commenced passenger services in late 2013 offering a terminal capacity of 5 million passengers. During this initial phase the airport had a cargo capacity of 250,00 tons per year, a 4.5km A380 compatible runway, and 64 aircraft stands

In 2015, as a result of Emirates airline growth and as a strategy to relieve pressure from Dubai International Airport (DXB), which in that year was the third-busiest airport in the world with 78 million users, Dubai Airports announced an expansion project for Al Maktoum's existing passenger terminal in order to increase its full capacity to 120 million passengers (26 million passengers per annum by 2017). The $32 billion expansion will cover 6,750 hectares, increasing DWC's cargo capacity to 12 million tons a year, and having one million aircraft movements, along five new “Code F" runways.

Al Jaber LEGT Engineering & Contracting (ALEC) will be in charge of the first stage of the passenger terminal expansion, which also includes a new 55-counter immigration hall, new baggage handling systems, 74 check-in counters, 12 boarding lounges, and an extension of the emigration transfer and security areas.

In an interview with TBY in 2014, HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman & Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, confirmed the magnitude and importance of the project for Dubai's aviation industry; “Al Maktoum International at DWC in Jebel Ali represents a quantum leap for aviation in Dubai. When completed, we will have an airport offering twice the capacity of London Heathrow within a fully integrated aerotropolis.

In its quest to become the aviation capital of the world, the proper development and expansion of Al Maktoum Airport is critical for the success of the Dubai South project as the development is the site for the Dubai Airshow, as well as for the World Expo 2020.

Last year's Dubai Airshow brought together 1,103 exhibitors from 61 countries, including 66,346 trade visitors, and had a $37.2 billion order book. Next year's Airshow will mark the 15th edition of the event and, according to Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects CEO Suzanne Al Anani, it is expected to grow by up to 20% in 2017.

On the other hand, the World Expo of 2020 is estimated to have an international audience of 25 million visitors from 180 nations according to its organizers. The event, which will run between October 2020 and April 2021, will take place on a 438ha site adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport, with a capacity to accommodate up to 250,000 people per day, as well as more than 30,000 volunteers from various nationalities.

Overall the expansion project of Al Maktoum International Airport looks promising and responds to a short-term need to increase the capacity of Dubai's travelers and visitors ahead of major international events. This, in conjunction with Dubai's consistent and constant search for international best practices, puts the Al Maktoum International Airport expansion project on a path to success.