The world’s third busiest airport and busiest for international travel, Dubai International Airport (DXB), has seen a decline in passenger traffic as 2018 drew to a close.
For the first 10 months of he year, passenger numbers were up compared to last year. 74.5m people passed through DXB up until October, an increase of 1.5% over the previous year.
However, during November less than seven million passengers used the airport, dipping 0.8% over the same period last year. This left the airport needing a record 8.9m passengers in December in order to reach its annual target of handling 90.3m travellers.
Could this be the end of the ‘honeymoon’ period for Emirates, and what does it mean for the new mega airport planned at Dubai Al Maktoum?
A slowdown in growth
Home to FlyDubai and Emirates, Dubai International Airport has seen increased traffic consistently for over 15 years. However, the rate of growth has slowed over the course of 2018, signalling that perhaps they are nearing critical mass.
Expected to maintain its position as third busiest airport in the world, after Atlanta International and Beijing Capital International airports, the deceleration of growth could be bad news for the development of the new airport at Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC).
Despite slower growth in passenger numbers, operations at DXB have been improved. Investment in state of the art technology has improved service efficiency, adopting measures such as ‘smart gates’ to speed passengers through immigration.
As a result, wait times at the airport were reduced by around 45% in November alone, which is good news for passengers.
Over 2018, India remained the top destination by customer numbers, with around a million passengers per month using this route. Saudi Arabia was the second, with half a million customers a month, and the UK was just behind seeing 450,000 passengers each month on average.
What about the new airport?
Dubai Al Maktoum International (DWC), also known as Dubai World Central Airport, was designed to be a megalithic airport resource, the largest that the world has ever seen capable of handling more than 200m passengers a year. With DXB struggling to achieve even 100m passengers, the question has to be raised; does Dubai even need an airport of this capacity?
Last month, Simple Flying reported that expansion at the airport had been suspended for the time being. In fact, reports suggest that the new airport will remain closed until 2030, as the second stage of financing for the project was ‘delayed indefinitely’.
Parts of the airport are open, and FlyDubai still plan to move some of their routes to this location later in 2019. Emirates are less keen, and will probably remain so until the expansion plans are committed to and given a date for completion.
Overall, Dubai is in the midst of something of an economic slowdown. Their stock market has fallen around 13%, and real estate has dropped 15% in the last four years. Although it would be exaggerating to say they are in an economic crisis, these factors certainly have their part to play in reducing demand for aviation across the country.
The impact on carriers is unclear at this stage, but less passengers always means less profit. We’ll wait to see how this reported decline affects the likes of Emirates, and whether the new airport will ever really be needed at all.