Dubai International airport processed 88.2 million passengers in 2017, growing 5.5 per cent over the previous year, and half a per cent below its initial forecast of 89 million.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said they expect passenger traffic to reach 90.3 million in 2018, a modest 2.3 per cent rise compared to the 2017 figure. ”Our focus in the new year will be on the DXB Plus programme, which aims to expand the airport’s annual capacity to 118 million passengers through process improvements and use of new technology,” Griffiths said.

The airport nevertheless maintained its status as the world’s top airport for international passengers, Dubai Airports said.

Markets that showed the most significant growth during the year included Russia with passenger numbers surging 28 per cent to 1,339,534, and China with 2,212,179 passengers, up 19.4 per cent over 2016.

MEED understands the relaxation of visa regulations for both countries, whose nationals can now get a visa on arrival, triggered the growth in passenger numbers. Thailand was the third-fastest growing market with passenger numbers rising 15.2 per cent in 2017 to reach 2,445,053. Dubai said Emirates Airline’s decision to switch to a two-class A380 service along the route helped bolster traffic to and from Thailand.

India remained the single largest destination country for Dubai International, accounting for 12,060,435 passengers in 2017, up 5.4 per cent compared to 2016. It is followed by the UK with 6,466,404 passengers, up 6.7 per cent, and Saudi Arabia with 6,364,598 passengers, up 4.6 per cent.

The number of flight movements declined by 2.4 per cent during 2017, reaching 409,493, while cargo volumes grew by 2.4 per cent to 2,654,494 tonnes compared to 2,592,454 recorded during 2016.

MEED earlier reported that passenger traffic at Kuwait and Muscat international airports posted double-digit growths in 2017, while passenger traffic at Qatar’s Hamad International airport fell by a third in the past year.

Muscat International processed over 14 million passengers in 2017, marking a 17 per cent increase compared to the figure reported the previous year.

The Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) reported that passenger traffic in Kuwait International rose from 11.7 million in 2016 to 13.7 million in 2017.

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