Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dubai World Central passenger services to start with flyDubai in 2013

DWC can accommodate around seven million passengers at present (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Dubai World Central (DWC), the emirate's second airport, will begin passenger operations in early 2013 with budget airline flyDubai as the first main carrier, Mohsen Ahmed, the airfield's director of operation development said.

The passenger terminal will cater to low-cost carriers, while Emirates SkyCargo will also move to the new facility, Ahmed said in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency in Dubai.

"Dubai International will still be the main airport for Dubai [and] the timeframe is 2023-2025 for the mega shift from Dubai International," Ahmed told a conference on Tuesday. "As a strategy we will not force airlines to shift to the airport, even though we do have a passenger terminal," he added.

DWC can accommodate around 7m passengers at present and Ahmed pointed out low cost carrier flyDubai carried around 2m passengers last year.

Analysts have speculated that low-costs airlines, currently operating mainly from Dubai International Terminal 2, will move to the new airport to free up space at Dubai International.

"My understanding is that low cost airlines will commence operations at DWC first however I would caveat that by saying no airline has publicly committed to a move… Discussions are likely to be ongoing behind the scenes and it's very unlikely that carriers will split operations between the current airport and DWC," Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, told Arabian Business in February.

Low-cost carriers currently operating from Dubai International include flyDubai, Jazeera Airways and Air India Express.

Dubai Airports' CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business in an interview earlier this month Dubai's major airport project, the US$34bn Al Maktoum International Airport, is likely to begin full commercial passenger services from 2027.

Part of the Dubai World Central (DWC) logistics complex, the new airport will replace Dubai International as the Middle East's major aviation hub, and is scheduled to be the world's largest airport by the time it opens.

"The original [plan] was to have some capacity online for 2017, we've pushed that back by about ten years... something around [2027]," Dubai Airports' CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business in an interview.

"The idea is to build a facility that's large enough so that Emirates and other airlines could move, not necessarily at the same time, but within a fairly short timeframe."

Dubai Airports slowed its development of Al Maktoum International in the wake of the global financial crisis, which halted a number of big-ticket projects as government agencies around the emirate struggled to pay trade creditors.

The revised plan included spending US$7.8bn to increase capacity at the existing facility, in a bid to boost cashflow for the new project and maintain Dubai's status as home to the world's fourth largest airport.

"Economics have changed enormously in the last four years and obviously we have had to adapt," said Griffiths.

"We're changing the timeline and order we bring the facilities online so that there's more generated cash from this airfield... and a longer timeline to invest. Both of those things will make the cashflow support that we require for the development [of Al Maktoum] much more manageable.

"We [also] realised that during the construction period, if we didn't have any capacity growth at Dubai International, the opportunity we would be losing to other airports of growing passenger traffic would be significant."

By the middle of the next decade, the aim is to have a capacity for 80m passengers at the new airport, allowing Dubai's state-owned carrier Emirates to move its entire operation to the new hub. 

In terms of cargo, Dubai's two airports handled 2.3m tonnes of cargo last year and Dubai Airport forecast that volumes are expected to hit 3m tones by 2015.

"Although the airport is in its infancy, incremental cargo traffic growth has been steady and continues to ramp up as new operations are launched," Griffiths said.

Phase 1 of Dubai World Central's cargo facilities has been built and has the capacity to handle 600,000 tonnes of cargo per year. When the airport is fully completed, it will be able to handle 12 million tonnes of cargo and 120m passengers a year, according to its website.

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