Dubai is considering plans for restarting the emirate’s largest construction project, the Dirham 120 billion ($33 billion) expansion of Al-Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central (DWC).
The expansion project was initially launched in June 2010 for cargo operations and in October 2013 for passenger flights, as part of a broader strategy to transform the DWC into the world’s biggest airport by 2050, with a handling capacity of up to 255 million passengers annually.
Reportedly, the initial phase of the project expected to be completed by 2030 will increase the airport’s capacity to 130 million passengers per year, with the total development set to cover an area of 56 square kilometres.
The DWC expansion project was delayed during the pandemic after developers competed for the estimated $2.7 billion substructure contract for Concourse I and the West Terminal building, the largest contract tendered for the project.
The contract includes more than 1.7 million square metres of connected basement footprint, with facilities including people-mover tunnels, baggage handling systems, ground services road networks and back-of-house technical and support facilities.
Boost to economy
The potential stakeholders have been advised to prepare for a restart of the project that will significantly boost Dubai’s economy. The project resumption plans were largely propelled by the ongoing rebound in passenger traffic, particularly with the emirate’s flagship international hub, Dubai International Airport, outperforming its traffic targets with 66.1 million passengers in 2022.
One of the key future challenges for Dubai international airport is runway capacity. It only has two runways, and as aircraft movements increase, it is expected to reach maximum capacity. The trend is expected to accelerate further as Emirates airline starts operating smaller Airbus A350 planes with fewer seats, which will mean more aircraft movements. Moreover, the airport is projected to handle nearly 78 million passengers by year-end, before returning to 2019 levels in 2024.
Regional competition is a challenge. Dubai is the region’s largest airport and Emirates is the region’s largest airline. That position is now challenged by plans in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom launched the masterplan for King Salman International airport in Riyadh, which aims to accommodate up to 120 million passengers by 2030 and 185 million by 2050.
Moreover, it has also announced to launch a new airline known as Riyadh Air which will be owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and seeks to make Riyadh a gateway to the world and a global destination for transportation, trade, and tourism besides portraying the kingdom in a favourable light in the aviation world.