Dubai International overtook London Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic just two months into the year.
Almost two million more international passengers travelled through Dubai International than London Heathrow up until February.
According to available data, passenger traffic rose 13.5 per cent to 12,075,552 passengers at Dubai International as of the end of February. In comparison, London Heathrow saw a 2.5 per cent jump to 10,282,300 passengers.
The title change is not a surprise with Dubai International passenger numbers falling just short of Heathrow’s in 2013.
Dubai’s growth has been spurred by Emirates’ rapid expansion to more than 130 international destinations. Last November, the airline posted a record fleet order of Boeing and Airbus aircraft worth $99 billion.
Dubai Airports, management behind Dubai International, is in the process of lifting the airports capacity from 60 million passengers a year to 90 million. It is currently at the midway point with a capacity of 75 million a year.
While Dubai International could hang on to its crown of world busiest airport for international passenger traffic, the coming months pose a challenge.
Dubai International will shut down a runway for almost three months from May 1 to July 20 due to scheduled repairs. The runway closure will significant cap capacity at the airport with some airlines opting to reduce flights or temporary shift part of full operations to Dubai’s current secondary airport Al Maktoum International.
Emirates, which is leading growth, will ground around 20 aircraft during the closure, roughly 10 per cent of their fleet.
London Heathrow, however, has been stuck in a political stalwart for a number of years over the construction of a third runway. Industry experts and key stakeholders have continuously said the airports growth is being hindered by the lack of political will to build the new runway.
Earlier this week, London Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews announced he is stepping down from his role later this year. Matthews will step down in June after six years with the airport. He has stated that it was now the right time for someone else to step into the role. Matthews will wait until the opening of Terminal Two: The Queens Terminal, which opens in June, before he steps down.