Dubai Ruler Approves $7.8 Billion Dubai Airports Expansion

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved a $7.8 billion expansion plan for the Persian Gulf emirate’s airports as the facility seeks to become the world’s busiest airfield.

Dubai International plans to boost capacity to 75 million travelers a year by 2012 and to 90 million by 2018, from 60 million now, Paul Griffiths, chief executive officer of Dubai Airports, said today at a news conference. The airport was the third-busiest for international traffic in the first quarter, after London Heathrow and Hong Kong, according to Airports Council International.

Dubai Airports operates Dubai International, which is home to Emirates, the biggest international airline, and the Al- Maktoum International Airport. Passengers handled by Dubai International surged 15.4 percent in 2010 from a year earlier to 47.2 million helped by a rebound in tourist and business traffic and Dubai’s growth as a hub for traffic between the U.S., Europe and Asia.

The cash flow from Dubai Airports and Dubai Duty Free makes paying for the expansion “very manageable,” Griffiths said. Depending on the financing plan chosen, Dubai Airports may consider becoming a standalone company, he told reporters in Dubai. The airport operator is now funded by the government.

Dubai Airports forecast that international passenger traffic will rise at an average annual rate of 7.2 percent this decade to reach 98.5 million by 2020, according to a statement distributed today. Cargo volumes are expected to gain 6.7 percent annually in the period.

New Concourses

The Dubai airport will complete building Concourse 3, meant for the use of Emirates’ Airbus A380 planes, by the end of 2012 and will build a Concourse 4 next to the existing Terminal 1 by 2015, Griffiths said.

The aviation industry in Dubai contributed $22.1 billion or 28 percent of the emirate’s gross domestic product in 2010 and will probably contribute 32 percent by 2020, according to today’s presentation. Dubai Duty Free is the world’s largest duty-free retailer with revenue of $1.27 billion in 2010.

Atlanta’s airport is the largest in the world by passenger traffic, including domestic flights.

To contact the reporters on this story: Arif Sharif in Dubai at asharif2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at cmaedler@bloomberg.net

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