Dubai Airports will overtake Atlanta, Beijing to be the biggest in the world, says CEO

Dubai Airports will overtake Atlanta and Beijing within the next decade to become the biggest aviation hub in the world, just days after it announced it had overtaken London’s Heathrow as the number one airport for international passenger numbers.

Last week, it was announced full year passenger numbers at Dubai International totalled 70,475,636, up 6.1 percent from the 66,431,533 recorded in 2013.

This followed robust passenger traffic growth of 7.5 percent in December with 6,498,573 passengers passing through the air hub, a statement from Dubai Airports said.

“This historic milestone is the culmination of over five decades of double-digit average growth that were inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum,” said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Airports.

While Dubai is now the biggest airport hub for international passenger numbers, it is still seventh overall in terms of total traffic, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International in the US and Beijing Capital International in China claiming the first two top spots due to their massive domestic passenger numbers.

However, Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said he was confident once Dubai World Central [DWC] comes on stream Dubai would soon overcome all its rivals and become the biggest hub for global aviation.

“I think we’ll get there and I think we’ll probably get there by about 2020,” Griffiths told CNN Money’s John Defterios in a TV interview.

“The actual numbers for Hartfield I think are about 93 million, Beijing has a capacity of 104 [million]. We will be hard pressed on this site but once DWC gets into its stride I am absolutely convinced by the mid-2020s Dubai will be the hub for aviation globally whether for international or domestic traffic.”

On top of runway upgrades at Dubai International Airport last summer, in September Dubai announced it is to spend $32 billion expanding DWC’s Al Maktoum International Airport, making it the world’s largest airport and increasing its ultimate capacity by 25 percent to more than 200 million passengers a year when it is complete.

Speaking of Dubai’s growing capacity, Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia, said while UK politicians “dithered” over the expansion of London Heathrow, the emirate’s leaders had the “vision and real aspiration” to push ahead with their ambitious aviation plans.

“Politicians won’t be brave enough to grasp the nettle. I don’t think we have the politicians in place who will deal with it…. Maybe I am cynical but I remain totally convinced that nothing will actually happen,” he said, adding they had “given up on world ambition.”

Walsh added that he believed Dubai would continue to expand because it has support from its politicians and business leaders who have “vision and real aspiration”.

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