Dubai’s airport operator Dubai Airports is preparing proposals to double the emirate’s passenger handling capacity to 200 million passengers a year by 2045, up from the current target of 100 million a year by 2020.

The proposal is being considered as a key objective for the next phase of development of Dubai’s aviation sector and is set to be submitted to Dubai government’s aviation sector board at its next meeting in May.

The aviation sector board is responsible for overseeing the strategic development of aviation in Dubai and is chaired by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed al-Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group.

If approved, the ambitious programme will launch a new wave of airport major projects that will span the next decade and beyond. It will drive the development of Al-Maktoum International airport at Jebel Ali in the south of the emirate.

Dubai Airports is currently two-and-a-half years into a $7.8bn investment programme launched in 2010 by its Strategic Plan 2020, which aimed to deliver 90 million passengers a year through Dubai by 2020.  

“The 2020 plan is almost outdated,” says Suzanne al-Anani, chief executive officer of Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP), which is responsible for the delivery of Dubai’s aviation infrastructure. “We are currently finalising a major sensitive study on Strategic Plan 2045 and we are preparing for a major presentation to the aviation sector board in May for Strategic Plan 2045 where we will get direction on the way forward. We are planning for 200 million passengers by 2045.”

Following the approval of the Strategic Plan 2020 in 2010, Dubai Airports and DAEP have developed two new terminal buildings at Dubai International airport, along with two new concourse buildings connecting the terminals and a raft of major associated facilities. In January, Dubai opened of the world’s first purpose-build terminal for handling the A380 aircraft manufactured by Europe’s Airbus consortium.

The next landmark will be achieved on 1 April 2013 when Australian airline Qantas officially begins operations from Dubai after announcing in November that it was moving its Asian hub from Singapore to Dubai to better serve long-haul traffic between Europe, Asia and Australia. The move, which also involves a tie up with Dubai carrier Emirates was approved by Australia’s aviation regulator on 26 March.

In 2012, Dubai processed 57.6 million international passengers, establishing it as the world’s third busiest international airport. Dubai Airports is forecasting 66 million passengers passing through Dubai in 2013 and has increased its 2020 objectives.

“We have lifted our aspiration to 100 million passengers by 2020,” says Dubai Airports chief executive officer Paul Griffiths.

Dubai’s aviation sector contributed about 28 per cent of Dubai’s economic output in 2012 with the figure expected to top 32 per cent by 2020 and account for 22 per cent of the emirate’s total employment.

  • Read the full interview with Dubai Airports chief executive officer Paul Griffiths and Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects chief executive Suzanne al-Anani in this week’s MEED special supplement A celebration of Dubai aviation