Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler has approved a $7.8bn airport and airspace expansion programme for Dubai International airport.

The expansion will increase capacity to 90 million passengers a year by 2018.

It is also designed to improve economic growth and generate 22 per cent of total employment and contribute 32 per cent of the emirate’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.

The strategy includes aggressive expansion plans for airspace, airfield, aircraft stands and terminal areas at Dubai International up until 2020.

The increase of commercial and retail income at the airport will fund the development of Dubai World Central in the long term.

“The combination of rallying tourism, Dubai’s proximity to the emerging economies of India and China and the emirates’ established role as a trading hub is together expected to drive traffic growth and further elevate Dubai’s status as a global centre for aviation,” says Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Airports and President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

In 2010, Dubai International recorded 47.2 million passengers so the need to accommodate the large increase is clear. In 2011, the airport is expected to handle 50.9 million passengers (MEED 4:5:11).

In terms of airspace, Dubai Airports is engaging national and regional civil aviation authorities and air navigation service providers to ensure that air routes are decongested, bottlenecks are reduced and latent airspace capacity is unlocked.