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Dubai International (DXB) secured its ranking as the world’s number one hub for international passengers by registering annual traffic of just over 78 million in 2015, firmly establishing Dubai as a global leader in aviation after five decades of double digit average growth.

Boosted by the development of some 100 airlines that connect Dubai International to more than 240 destinations around the world, most notably Emirates and flydubai, annual passenger traffic at DXB reached a record 78,014,838 passengers in 2015, just shy of Dubai Airports’ 79 million target. This represents a 10.7 percent surge on the 70,473,893 passengers recorded during 2014. Average monthly traffic for the year grew to a record high of 6.5 million, after monthly traffic exceeded seven million in both August and December.

During the year, DXB welcomed new airlines including Air Canada from Toronto, Eurowings from Cologne and China Southern from Wuhan. A total of 12 new passenger destinations were also added thanks to the ongoing network expansion of flydubai and Emirates.

This trend continued into 2016, with record monthly traffic of 7.3 million passengers in January.

“The record passenger numbers in January confirm that the growth trend from last year has continued into 2016 and we are on course to meet our projection of 85 million passengers that we expect to pass through our airport this year,” asserted Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer, Paul Griffiths.

This capacity is being facilitated by the AED4.4 billion (US$1.2 billion) Concourse D, catering to 70-plus airlines.

“We continue to invest in the development of top-flight infrastructure to augment service levels for our international airlines and their customers while providing the capacity needed to meet growing demand,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports; President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority; and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Group. “Concourse D has been designed with the customer at its heart. Shorter walking distances, more comfortable seating areas, more choice in lounges and a world-class retail and F&B offering are sure to impress and delight our passengers and our airline partners.”

The concourse is linked to the newly renovated Terminal 1 by a dedicated airport train that can transport 300 passengers per trip. Designed around a central atrium, Concourse D offers short walks to open gates, which will allow travellers to board directly from the waiting area, giving them more freedom and time to enjoy the full array of exciting food and beverage outlets.

There’s certainly plenty to experience. A number of world renowned brands were introduced to Dubai and the region for the first time at Concourse D, including The Kitchen from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck; the first Pret A Manger in a Middle Eastern airport; and Butlers Chocolate Café.

Traveller favourites YO! Sushi and Giraffe were popular additions to the airport, while 175 retail installations span 33,000 square metres.

The new concourse offers plenty of comfortable seating spaces and wellbeing concepts such as Be Relax and ‘SnoozeCubes’, which provide a convenient way to rest between flights. It features a total of nine lounges spread over 6,926 square metres, including two Dubai International Hotel lounges and a Marhaba VIP lounge.

On the apron, Concourse D provides 21 contact stands, of which four will be able to accommodate Airbus A380 or Boeing 747 aircraft, and 11 remote stands.

“Concourse D’s opening in February has increased DXB’s capacity to 90 million passengers a year, allowing us to continue to accommodate the rising number of people whilst boosting service levels. In the months ahead we will begin the complete refurbishment of Concourse C which will further improve passenger flows and the overall customer experience,” added Griffiths.

Tripling capacity

It’s difficult to fathom now, but despite all the developments, Dubai International will eventually reach its limit. Future demand is therefore being catered for already, with operations at a second airport, Al Maktoum International – Dubai World Central (DWC).

Located near to the proposed Dubai Expo 2020 site at Dubai South on a 140-square-kilometre plot, DWC opened for passenger services in October 2013. It is currently undergoing a fast-track expansion to take capacity from seven million to 26 million annual passengers by 2018. The project is a precursor to the US$32 billion expansion project announced in September 2014 to create the world’s biggest airport, with an ultimate capacity of up to 240 million passengers per year.

As part of the existing passenger terminal expansion, the check-in area, baggage and immigration halls, as well as security screening areas, will be substantially expanded while the forecourt will be improved to ensure easier access to the parking and drop-off areas.

Once complete, the passenger terminal will provide a total of 24 boarding gates, seven baggage reclaim carousels and 104 check-in desks.

“With traffic growth continuing at a rapid pace, the expansion of the current facility will help us accommodate future demand while the construction of the US$32 billion programme is in progress,” explained Griffiths.

At present, the facility is still in its infancy, catering to between five and seven million passengers per year. It’s served by 16 passenger carriers operating over 190 flights to 25 destinations.

“We are very pleased with the growth at DWC and expect the trend to continue,” said Griffiths. “The growth projection is based on two key factors. First is the planned move of flydubai’s entire operation to DWC by end of 2017. Second is the sheer convenience of using the facility. It takes only minutes for passengers to get from kerb to gate and the arrivals process is similarly efficient. Customers who use DWC once, usually come back as a result.”