DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Dubai International Airport saw an increase in passengers during the first half of 2022 as pandemic restrictions eased and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will further increase traffic at the city’s second airport – to the state, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Paul Griffiths, who oversees the world’s busiest airport for international travel, told The Associated Press that the airport handled 160% more traffic over the past six months compared to the same period last year, part of a rebound in air travel. worldwide.
The nearly 28 million people who traveled through the airport over the past six months represent about 70% of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels, even as China’s main source market of Dubai remains closed due to severe pandemic restrictions. Griffiths said he expects airport traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.
“It’s a very, very welcome increase in traffic,” Griffiths said.
The first World Cup in the Middle East, he added, will send foreign soccer fans to Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central, or DWC. From there, they will travel daily to Qatar, a small neighbor facing a hotel squeeze.
“We’ve actually seen a large amount of demand at DWC for filings for airlines that want to operate a shuttle service,” he said. “I think the city has a lot to offer and a lot to gain from the World Cup.”
Among the airlines buying additional slots to ferry soccer fans to tournaments from DWC are Qatar Airways, low-cost airline FlyDubai and budget airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, he said.
Ambitions have spread in recent years to turn the airport in Dubai’s southern desert into a mega-aviation hub, first unveiled by Dubai before the global financial crisis of 2008. Dubai-based long-haul carrier Emirates, parked many of its double-decker Airbus A380s there during the pandemic as commercial flights ground to a halt.
A key East-West transit point, Dubai’s air traffic is closely watched as a barometer of the city-state’s non-oil economy. Emirates remains the linchpin of the wider empire known as Dubai Inc., a conglomerate of government-owned businesses.
During the first half of 2022, Dubai International Airport faced almost 56% more flights than the same period in 2021, when contagious variants of the coronavirus took over the industry.
Now, in a sign of the industry’s health, Emirates said Wednesday it would pour billions of dollars into refurbishing most of its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet. At the height of the pandemic, the airline received a $4 billion bailout dollars from the government.
The widespread lifting of virus restrictions has caused a surge in demand for air travel, crowding central Dubai and causing chaos at airports around the world.
While Dubai has not seen the chaotic crowds that have plagued European hubs in recent weeks, Griffiths said global disruptions have affected its main airport.
“Obviously it has affected growth because some of the capacity caps that they have applied at airports like Heathrow have had an impact on our numbers,” he said.
Last month Emirates hit out at Heathrow, rejecting its request to limit passenger departures and cut flights to central London. Emirates later agreed to temporarily limit sales on its flights.
Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Russia’s wealthiest businessmen to scramble to salvage their fortunes from what has become a growing dragnet, Dubai has welcomed an influx of Russians to luxury beachside villas and hotels. The city remains one of the few remaining flight corridors outside of Moscow.
Griffiths declined to comment on the Russians moving money out of the country to Dubai, which has become the focus of attention in recent months.
But he said the flow of Russian visitors would not stop anytime soon, adding: “It’s still a big source of traffic for us.”
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