‘Jebel Ali airport is definitely going ahead,’ Jamal al-Hai, DCA director of strategy and management excellence, said on the sidelines of MEED’s 2nd Middle East Airports conference in Bahrain on 29 November. ‘There will be an announcement by the end of the year.’

Although details remain sketchy on the scheme, Al-Hai confirmed the new facility would cover an area 15 times larger than originally anticipated and comprise an integrated airport city with associated real estate, entertainment and leisure projects. The airport could have capacity for six runways, although DCA is looking to build a maximum of three.

Located to the south of Jebel Ali village, the development initially aims to cater to cargo traffic with phase 1 handling between 250,000-300,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of freight. Non-scheduled flights, general aviation services and low-cost carriers will also be given the option of flying into Jebel Ali, although it remains unclear whether the DCA will allow this in the first development stage.

The airport was scheduled to be complete by 2020, but was fast-tracked to the end of 2006 due to growing space constraints at Dubai International Airport. The hub is anticipating passenger numbers to reach almost 60 million by 2010; at present it handles about 1.1 million t/y of cargo. DCA is already carrying out a $4,200 million expansion of the existing airport.