£28bn plans unveiled to create ‘world’s largest airport’ in Dubai

Adewole Kehinde
6 Min Read
Dubai airport

Plans worth $35bn (£28bn) have been announced for the expansion of Dubai’s second largest airfield into the city’s main international airport, which will make it the largest airport in the world.

The plans for upgrading and expanding Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) emerged following analysis that demonstrated Dubai’s current principal airport Dubai International Airport (DXB) cannot expand to meet future demand.

According to an announcement on 28 April from Emirate of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, DWC will be the “world’s largest airport”, replacing DXB as Dubai’s primary air passenger hub

Located in the desert 45km from DXB, the upgraded DWC will expand from two to five runways and will have the capacity to process up to 260M passengers a year through new terminal facilities designed to recall the traditional Bedouin tents of the Arabian Peninsula.

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DXB is currently the world’s busiest airport for international travel, with a record 89M passengers passing through it in 2018. Numbers dropped during the pandemic to 66M passengers in 2022, but according to figures released in February by operator Dubai Airports, DXB registered a 31.7% increase in passenger traffic last year to 86.9M, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Dubai Airports said it forecast DXB would receive 88.8M passengers in 2024 with further growth predicted.

DXB is connected to 262 destinations across 104 countries through 102 international carriers, the operator said. India was DXB’s top destination country in terms of traffic with 11.9M passengers last year, followed by Saudi Arabia with 6.7M, Britain with 5.9M and Pakistan with 4.2M.

However, expansion of DXB is restricted by the presence of flanking residential neighbourhoods and two major highways.


Information published by Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP), the infrastructure developer for Dubai’s aviation sector, confirms DWC’s new runways will be arranged in a parallel configuration and will feature 400 aircraft gates equally divided to service four concourses. The 100 boarding gates of each concourse will be lined along the airport’s piers, with a spine linking the airport’s nodes, enabling smooth access to the aircraft through multiple boarding bridges.

Each of the concourses is described in the plans as “a megastructure”, with a built-up area of 2.3M.m2. Stretched across 2.7km, each concourse will equal the length of the three concourses at DXB.

The West Terminal building at DWC will host origin and destination passengers, with dedicated halls for first and business, as well as economy class.

A 14-station Automated People Mover (APM) will carry travellers from terminals to concourses as well as between concourses, “allowing transferring passengers to reach connecting flights through the shortest and smoothest path.”

The central piazza of the concourse, where the APM drops off passengers, will feature expansive retail, dining and entertainment spaces.

Plans for DWC also include its repositioning as a base for global aviation innovation, featuring “a new era of smart airport systems and passenger-centric facilities, taking travellers to worldwide destinations in the most awe-inspiring and comfortable way possible”.

DWC will also be able to process 15Mt of cargo annually via a multi-modal cargo hub enabling air, land and sea connection with dedicated freight storage space on the airside, landside and by the seaport. These facilities will support the growth of the nearby Logistics District, planned as an international base for global cargo and shipping companies.

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in an online statement: “We are building a new project for future generations, ensuring continuous and stable development for our children and their children in turn.

“Dubai will be the world’s airport, its port, its urban hub and its new global centre.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum confirmed in a separate announcement that the expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport will be complete within the decade.

DAEP will deliver the airport in a phased plan. Phase 1 will see the airport will open to new airlines, supported by an annual capacity of 130M passengers. To achieve this capacity, two more runways, Concourse 1 and the West Terminal building will be completed.

Meanwhile, the North Support Facilities will complement operations. A 6,000-space car park will provide parking space, while a metro station will link passengers from Dubai to DWC and four APM stations will take passengers between the concourse and terminal.

Phase 2 will see a further annual capacity of 20M added with the opening of Concourse 2, the South Support Facilities, the second Control Tower, as well as expansion of the North Support Facilities and the West Terminal.

These projects will take the airport’s capacity up to a 150M annual passengers.

The final phase will see DWC achieve full capacity, with key expansions executed in increments including the addition of two more concourses and further expansion of the North Support Facilities.

Source: newcivilengineer

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