Dubai Airport passenger numbers exceed forecasts, but still lower than pre-pandemic

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Dubai International Airport remains the world’s busiest as 2021 passenger numbers exceeded forecasts, although traffic may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, the airport’s chief executive told Bloomberg.

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The airport clocked 29.1 million passengers in 2021, exceeding forecasts by more than half a million, Dubai Airports said in a statement.

Current forecasts indicate that traffic through the airport could almost double by reaching 55.1 million by in 2022.

Demand, however, is still considerably lower than it was in 2019, when 86.4 million travelers passed through the airport.

Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths told Bloomberg that it may take 18 months beyond year-end to reach 2019 levels.

Griffiths said demand this year could surprise, with strong booking trends including “very encouraging” summer sales suggesting that Dubai Airports estimates maybe “a little bit conservative.”

The CEO, in a statement, credited the surge in passenger numbers partly to the fact that Dubai Airport returned to full capacity in November.

He also said that the Dubai Airshow 2021 and Expo 2020 Dubai were major draws for international travelers.

A new in-house airport laboratory for fast-track processing COVID-19 PCR test samples was also a factor, he said.

A record number of new airlines also connected to Dubai in 2021, according to the statement.

India retained its position as the top destination for Dubai passengers by volume, with 4.2 million people traveling to the south Asian nation in 2021.

Pakistan was second on the list with 1.8 million travelers, while Saudi Arabia was third with 1.5 million, and the UK fourth with 1.2 million.

The top city destinations were Istanbul with 916,000 passengers, Cairo with 905,000, and London with 814,000.

DXB is currently connected to 198 destinations across 93 countries through 84 international carriers –more than in 2019 before the pandemic.

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