Dubai unveils expansion plans for ‘world’s biggest airport project’

Out-Law News | 10 Sep 2014 | 3:50 pm | 2 min. read

Dubai has unveiled plans to invest $32 billion in a project that will see the Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central (DWC), the emirate’s second airport, expand to become one of the world’s major aviation hubs.

Dubai Airports said on 8 September that it welcomed the approval by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to launch what is “anticipated to be the biggest airport project in the world”.

The project will comprise two phases. The first phase is expected to take between six and eight years to complete and will see the construction of  two satellite buildings with a collective capacity to handle 120 million passengers annually and receive up to 100 A380 aircraft “at any one time”, DA said. Following phase one, “the airport will be expanded incrementally, thanks to its modular design, to deliver capacity in timely response to increases in demand”.

DA said the decision to expand thex airport followed months of planning by key stakeholders in the aviation sector including Dubai Airports Engineering Projects and the national Emirates airline “to ensure that  a design was selected that facilitates the future growth of Dubai’s aviation industry”.

“More than its size, the new airport’s uniqueness lies in a radically new approach to ensure that the latest technology and efficient processes will cut the time spent completing travel formalities and reduce walking distances, enabling passengers to make fast and efficient connections between hundreds of destinations worldwide,” DA said. 

Dubai airports chief executive officer Paul Griffiths said the expansion was “a vital investment in the future of Dubai”. He said the aviation sector was projected to remain a “cornerstone of Dubai’s economy”, and was expected to support more than 322,000 jobs and contribute 28% per cent of Dubai’s gross domestic product by 2020.

Griffiths said: “Our future lies at DWC. The announcement of this development is both timely and a strong endorsement of Dubai's aviation industry. With limited options for further growth at Dubai International (DXB), we are taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new airport that will not only create the capacity we will need in the coming decades but also provide state of the art facilities that revolutionise the airport experience on an unprecedented scale.”

"These are seemingly heady days for both the economy in general in Dubai and specifically the aviation sector," said Sachin Kerur of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "In that regard, it is no surprise to see a project of such scale and ambition. That being said, there are lessons to be learned from the last recession. One aspect that will need to be considered is the extent to which major development programmes in the region are heaping pressures on prices, materials and resources. With a procurement undertaking of this size taking place in a busy regional development market, there will need to be a heavy focus on efficient procurement methods and first class administration of the contractual arrangements."

DXB, the emirate’s first airport, was officially inaugurated on 30 September 1960 when it comprised an 1,800-metre airstrip of compacted sand, an apron, a fire station and a small terminal building. DXB now serves more than 66 million passengers a year, DA said.

DWC opened its doors to passengers in October 2013 and currently has a capacity of around five to seven million passengers annually. The expansion of DWC is part of DA’s ‘Strategic Plan 2020’, which also plans for an increase in cargo growth from 2.2 million tonnes in 2010 to 4.1 million tonnes by 2020.

The International Monetary Fund said last June that the UAE’s economic growth is expected to be 4.8% in 2014 and about 4.5% in coming years, supported by “megaprojects” such as the successful bid for Expo 2020.