Dubai Airports in Talks to Bring More Cargo Carriers to New Hub

Dubai Airports said it’s in talks with more cargo carriers about operating from the sheikdom’s new Al Maktoum hub while continuing to work on adding passenger airlines after the facility opened to them last month.

The site at the Dubai World Central complex is stirring interest as capacity constraints at the old Dubai International airport leave carriers with limited prospects for expansion, Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths said in an interview.

“We’ve got significant evidence that DWC is being taken very seriously as a viable option,” Griffiths said today at the Dubai Air Show. “We’ve got a lot of different conversations happening at the moment and they’re all going positively.”

New operators are showing an interest even after third-quarter freight volumes at Dubai World Central fell 26 percent to 43,252 metric tons. The hub opened to cargo traffic in June 2010 and currently has 36 freight operators, including Air France-KLM Group, compared with a handful of passenger carriers including Jazeera Airways of Kuwait and Wizz Air Ltd.

The new site -- where the biennial aviation expo was held for the first time -- is attractive to freight airlines because of its proximity to the Jebel Ali industrial zone and port in the far west of Dubai, Griffiths said, adding that the recent volume slump stemmed from fluctuations in charter operations.

Emirates Challenge

Dubai Airports also needs to come up with a plan for accommodating growth at local carrier Emirates, already the No. 1 airline by international passenger traffic and poised to further swell the industry’s biggest fleet of Airbus SAS A380 jets -- double-deckers requiring special gates -- after an order for 50 more of the planes.

“That, I think, is the next task in the supply chain, to come up with a strategy that delivers the appropriate level of airport capacity to fund the existing order book,” Griffiths said, adding that the company is considering “a number of different scenarios” involving both of its hubs.

Emirates has indicated that some of the new superjumbos will substitute for existing aircraft, with others for growth.

Dubai Airports is also examining different options for the masterplan to develop Al Maktoum,

“You’ve only got one chance to get it right, so we’re making sure we assess all the different scenarios,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with something that’s affordable, that’s timely and that’s modular in terms of its ability to be built in stages according to different rates of growth.”

Dubai International airport will undergo runway repairs next summer and it’s likely some flights will be displaced to the new hub as a result, the CEO said.

Al Maktoum, named after the emirate’s former ruler Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is located about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi, where the Midfield Terminal Building is being built to increase passenger capacity, though Griffiths said there’s enough business for both hubs.

“Provided we’re capturing a couple of percentage points of marketshare from all of our outlying 260 destinations that are connected through Dubai, it doesn’t matter if your competing hub is a 1,000, 3,000 or 30 miles away,” he said.

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