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Dubai to move its busy international airport to a $35 billion new space within years

Simon Calder’s Travel

Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, will move within the next ten years, it has been announced.

The operations will move to the city-state’s second airfield, in its southern desert reaches, in a project worth nearly $35 billion, its ruler said Sunday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum‘s announcement marks the latest chapter in the rebound of its long-haul carrier Emirates after the coronavirus pandemic grounded international travel. Plans have been on the books for years to move the operations of the airport known as DXB to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central which had also been delayed by the repercussions of the sheikhdom’s 2009 economic crisis.

“We are building a new project for future generations, ensuring continuous and stable development for our children and their children in turn,” Sheikh Mohammed said in an online statement. “Dubai will be the world’s airport, its port, its urban hub and its new global center.”

The city-state is still trying to recover after the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the UAE, which disrupted flights and commerce for days.

The announcement included computer-rendered images of curving, white terminal reminiscent of the traditional Bedouin tents of the Arabian Peninsula.

The airport will include five parallel runways and 400 aircraft gates, the announcement said. The airport now has just two runways, like Dubai International Airport.

This artist’s rendering provided by the government of Dubai shows plans for Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The financial health of the carrier Emirates has served as a barometer for the aviation industry worldwide and the wider economic health of this city-state. Dubai and the airline rebounded quickly from the pandemic by pushing forward with tourism even as some countries more slowly came out of their pandemic crouch.

The number of passengers flying through DXB surged last year beyond its total for 2019 with 86.9 million passengers. Its 2019 annual traffic was 86.3 million passengers. The airport had 89.1 million passengers in 2018 — its busiest-ever year before the pandemic, while 66 million passengers passed through in 2022.

Cars are stranded on a flooded in Dubai following heavy rains on April 18, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

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