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Dubai reaches for the sky with massive airport expansion

April 28, 2024

A pre-existing airport in Dubai will be built up to include five parallel runways and 400 gates, allowing it to handle more passengers than any other airport in the world, according to the goverment.

 An artist's rendering of the appearance of the new project at Al Maktoum International Airport
In this artist's rendering, the roofs of the planned terminals recall Bedouin tentsImage: Dubai government/AP/picture alliance

The UAE city of Dubai is set to invest $35 billion (€32.7 billion) into expanding its second-largest airfield, aiming to make it the city's main international airport within the decade, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, announced on Sunday.

The project to construct new passenger terminals at the location of Al Maktoum International Airport, located amid desert expanses 45 km (28 miles) from the current one known as DXB.

The current main international airport, Dubai International Airport, is the world's busiest for international travel. Some 89.1 million passengers passed through it in 2018, setting a record, but the numbers have dropped significatly during the pandemic. Some 66 million passengers used the airport in 2022.

The current air hub cannot be easily expanded, as it is flanked by residential neighborhoods and two major highways.

What do we know about the new project?

The refurbished Al Maktoum International Airport, which now has two runways, will include five parallel ones, the announcement said.

It will have 400 aircraft gates and the capacity to process up to 260 million passengers per year, it added.

 View of terminal interior as imagined by an artist, with areas of vegetation and curving supports for the roof
The interior is planned to contain patches of greenery, as shown in this artist's renderingImage: Dubai government/AP/picture alliance

The new passenger and cargo hub will feature "new aviation technologies," according to the announcement, while an "entire city" is to be built around the site.

Computer-rendered images accompanying the announcement featured a curving, white terminal that recalls traditional Bedouin tents of the Arabian Peninsula.

 "We are building a new project for future generations, ensuring continuous and stable development for our children and their children in turn," Sheikh Mohammed said in an online statement. "Dubai will be the world's airport, its port, its urban hub and its new global center."

tj/dj (AP, AFP)