Dubai Airport Sees 3% Fall In Passenger Numbers

Dubai International airport has seen a 3.1% drop in passenger numbers for 2019. The worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX and collapse of India’s Jet Airways are certainly, at least partially, responsible. But after slow growth in 2018, is business slowing down in general for Dubai airport?

Dubai airport at night
Several factors impacted passenger numbers in 2019. Photo: Dubai airports

Why are the numbers falling?

Dubai is the third busiest airport in the world. It’s a major stop-off destination for connecting flights, and this is their first-ever drop in annual traffic.

Chief Executive Paul Griffiths said to Reuters, that factors behind the drop included a temporary runway closure, the collapse of India’s Jet Airways (JET.NS), and the worldwide grounding of the Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX.

“The airport lost an estimated potential 3.2 million passengers as a consequence”, he said.

Flydubai is a major customer of the 737 MAX, while Dubai is a highly popular destination for commuters traveling to and from India. These are likely two of the major causes.

The Southern runway at Dubai International airport was closed for a 45-day refurbishment project. This affected a number of airlines, and was attributed to the decrease in 1 million passengers for Emirates.

Despite the various setbacks, Dubai International remains the world’s busiest airport for international travel, for the sixth year running.

Emirates aircraft with sunset
Emirates also reporting reduced passenger numbers. Photo: Dubai airports

What are the challenges in 2020?

2020 is off to a bumpy start for Dubai airport with surprise flooding and a global health emergency.


Coronavirus continues to wreak mayhem around the globe. The first quarter of 2020 will likely be affected as flight suspensions to China remain in effect. Travelers from China make up a huge portion of traffic to Dubai, with 501,000 visitors between Jan – June 2019.

Unexpected flooding

Rainfall is infrequent in Dubai, and is usually not an issue when it does happen. However, an unexpected bout of heavy rainfall hit Dubai airport early in January 2020, causing floods. It only rains on average 5 days a year in Dubai, so heavy rainfall isn’t really an expected occurrence.

Dubai Airport could have peaked

Dubai airport with sunset and city in the background
Dubai airport is a major stop-off destination for connecting flights. Photo: Dubai airports

Although the setbacks in 2019 are clear, growth in 2018 was also much lower than anticipated, with Dubai airport seeing a 1% increase in passengers.

Dubai is a major connecting route for long-distance travelers, but with advances in technology, more ultra-long-haul flights will be available in the future. Could the development of longer direct flights have an impact on the flow of passengers through Dubai’s airport?

Overnight tourists to Dubai continue to grow year on year, which could have a positive effect on passenger numbers to Dubai International airport. For budget travelers, getting connecting flights will always be an option if it’s cheap enough. It also breaks long journeys up. London to Brisbane does sound like an awfully long time to be on a plane, doesn’t it?

Are there any other reasons people may not be traveling to Dubai airport? What do you think the future will hold? Let us know in the comments.