As uncertainty buffets the Gulf region—with a slow coup unde rway in Saudi Arabia against opponents of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, plus a boycott of Qatar and worsening relations with Iran—development priorities have changed at Dubai World Central (DWC), putting the onus back on Dubai International (DXB).
With DWC seeing five or fewer arrivals and departures a day over the past month, DXB is fighting to stave off hitting its 90 million passengers per annum (mppa) capacity ceiling, which it is expected to reach early next year. DXB saw 83.7 million passengers last year, and will be close to 90 million this year.
“What we are hoping to achieve are some announcements [of] new infrastructure developments to increase passenger numbers and also service quality at [DXB]," said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. "We aim to develop facilities that will give us the ability to accommodate the revised operating model which will emerge following the cooperation between Emirates and flydubai.”
Emirates announced October 2 it would codeshare on 29 routes operated by flydubai, with faster transit times over DXB to flydubai’s base at Terminal 2.
“Now airlines have a choice: either to operate [at DXB] where slots are available, which might not be at their most desired times, or to go DWC and have a pretty unrestricted operation, any time they want to. Airlines have a choice. I think what will happen over the years as we continue to optimize the capacity at DXB [is] we will finally get to a position where we can’t accommodate any more growth, and then [it] will shift to DWC once slots at DXB are finally exhausted.
“At the moment, the focus is on two main areas: delivery of the PTB (Passenger Terminal Building) expansion, to 26mppa, at DWC, by Q1 2018. The other thing is that we are going for a complete refurbishment at Concourse C at DXB. This enables us to service many more remote stands.
“On the Midfield Terminal, DWC Phase Two as we call it, the design is being reviewed at the moment because of course we have got to accommodate not just Emirates but flydubai as well, because their relationship will deepen over the years. That is our No.3 project and we are looking attimelines at the moment.”
This represents a delay to the original schedule for DWC Phase Two construction, which officials at the Dubai Airshow 2015 told AIN would begin in 2016. “The pace of work is a bit variable at the moment. Grading work on a new runway [at DWC] is taking place and the preparations on site continue,” Griffiths said.
“Actually if I said that, I was very ambitious. We are doing a lot of tendering these days, and part of that is for the [Phase 2] design,” said Khalifa Al Zaffin, executive director, Dubai Aviation City Corporation.
Asked to comment on the fact that only three aircraft were scheduled to arrive, and three to depart on the day AIN met him (October 17), Griffiths said: “Obviously, the situation in the region is slightly more complicated than it was a year ago and I think airlines have consolidated their position at DXB.
“Visitor numbers in Dubai continue to rise. We have had three months where we’ve had over 8 million passengers this year. Demand has consolidated around DXB in the short term, but as I have said, in the longer term, we do expect DWC to be the focus of most of the growth of the future.”
When asked if there is a target date for a complete move by flydubai to DWC, Griffiths said: “No, I don’t think so. That has never been the case. What we have always said is that DWC will be a safety valve, if you like, for the capacity at DXB finally becoming exhausted.”
“We have been operating at DWC since 2015, providing passengers from across Dubai with increased opportunities and choice for travel. flydubai sees opportunity to grow its existing operations at DWC in line with its future aircraft deliveries, network expansion plans and the next phase of the development of the airport,” Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai CEO, told AIN.
Emirates SkyCargo operations transferred all dedicated cargo freighter operations to DWC in 2014, and the airport now claims to be among the world’s top 20 for cargo volume throughput.
DWC site operator Dubai South is executing a number of real estate projects within the airport’s boundaries, while the build-out of the Expo 2020 site to the north-east of the airport is well under way. “A lot of passengers [attending the Expo] will come through Dubai International Airport and the general aviation terminal,” Al Zaffin said.