Dubai Airport Sees Traffic Surge Despite Pandemic Woes

Dubai’s airport, known as DXB, experienced a traffic increase of over 100% in 2022, moving over 66 million passengers, compared to 29.1 million in 2021 when global travel was restricted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, it has yet to recover fully, as it falls short of the 86.4 million passengers recorded in 2019. In spite of the surge in passengers, the advanced airport in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has been able to maintain its capacity throughout the pandemic, thereby avoiding the travel turmoil that hit North America and Europe last year.

CEO of the airport, Paul Griffiths, predicts a return to pre-pandemic traffic levels by the end of 2023 or early 2024, with China’s relaxation of its “zero COVID” policies expected to give the traffic a boost. The airport’s forecast for 2023 is 78 million passengers. Griffiths expects DXB to recover to its pre-pandemic levels by the first half of 2024, or even this year, with China’s relaxation of its policies likely to be the “new engine of growth.”

Dubai’s airport, situated at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, is renowned as the world’s busiest for international flights, with 229 destinations in 99 countries linked to DXB, serviced by multiple international carriers. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport holds the title for the busiest airport overall, including domestic flights, according to flight data provider OAG.

The UAE heavily relies on tourism, a key industry that has flourished due to the country’s generous investment in infrastructure through its oil wealth. This has led to the development of modern cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which have become popular tourist destinations. While other countries locked down and imposed travel restrictions in 2020, the UAE made it a priority to prepare for the eventual post-pandemic recovery.

This decision led to the retention of employees and a smooth transition to welcoming back visitors as restrictions eased. During the summer of 2021, while other airports struggled with delays and cancellations, Dubai airport operated efficiently, boasting an average wait time at passport control upon arrival of less than 13 minutes and security of less than three minutes for over 95% of passengers.

The top destinations for travelers passing through the airport were India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. The lifting of pandemic restrictions has also led to the resumption of the hajj pilgrimage in neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is expected to attract millions of Muslims from around the world. The war in Ukraine has contributed to an influx of Russian visitors to the UAE, driving a local real estate boom. The CEO of Dubai airport expects pre-pandemic levels of travel to return by Q4 of 2022, and no later than Q4 of 2023.

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