Dubai’s Emirates to move to new airport after 2020, exec says

Carrier says only the government can make decision to shift operations to Al Maktoum International Airport

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Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates is expected to move all of its operations to the emirate’s new Al Maktoum International Airport after 2020, a senior executive at Al Maktoum said on Tuesday.

Big international carriers, including Emirates, have so far not indicated any plans to move to the new airport, which officially launched passenger services in October last year.

“Emirates have to move to the new airport at some point. They will move some time after 2020, when we have the capacity to accommodate them,” Khalifa Al Zaffin, executive chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corp, which built the Dubai World Central logistics complex housing the new airport, told reporters.

Zaffin, speaking on the sidelines of a conference organized by business information firm MEED, added that phase one of the expansion of Al Maktoum would be completed by 2020, when the airport would be able to handle 130 million passengers.

Emirates currently operates from Dubai International, an older airport; it includes a terminal dedicated to Airbus A380 superjumbos, which Emirates uses extensively.

“Any decision to move Emirates’ current operations from DXB to DWC is one for the Dubai government to make,” an Emirates spokesman said in response to the comments by Zaffin, adding that nothing had been announced so far.

If Emirates and other big airlines eventually move to Al Maktoum, it could free up a massive area for redevelopment near Dubai’s downtown.

Al Maktoum can currently handle up to 7 million passengers a year and is being expanded to eventually accommodate over 160 million. Dubai International’s current capacity is 75 million; passenger traffic has been growing at double-digit rates because of booming tourism and trade.

Only a handful of carriers operate from Al Maktoum so far, including European budget carrier Wizz Air and Kuwait's Jazeera Airways.

Al Maktoum’s passenger terminal was initially slated to launch in 2009, but its opening was pushed back after Dubai’s debt crisis. Cargo operations started there in June 2010.

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