Biggest airport in the world to proceed in Dubai

A vast new construction project will break ground in Dubai after the emirate’s ruler this week endorsed plans for the biggest airport in the world.

The $32bn expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport was approved by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. When complete in 2027, developers say it will accommodate more than 200 million passengers a year.

Last year the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, handled 94.4 million people, and London’s Heathrow handled 72.3 million.

The expansion will take place in two phases, with phase one comprising two satellite buildings that together will accommodate 120 million passengers annually and be able to receive 100 of the extra-large A380 aircraft at any one.

Airports operator Dubai Airports said this phase will take between six and eight years to complete. The entire development will cover an area of 56 square kilometres.

The scheme is part of Dubai’s long-term plan to be a global transport and logistics hub. A $7.8bn expansion programme is already underway at Dubai’s other airport, Dubai International (DBX), which will boost annual capacity to 90 million passengers by 2018. The plan involves the construction of additional terminal space and concourse areas comprising an extra 675,000sqm of floor space – twice the footprint of London Heathrow Terminal 5.

But even that will be dwarfed by Al Maktoum International. It is the centrepiece of a purpose-built "aerotropolis" called Dubai World Central which, located near Jebel Ali Port, comprises a vast, custom-bonded, sea-to-air trade and logistics hub.

Al Maktoum International opened in 2010 to cargo flights. Passenger flights started in 2013. When all phases of its construction are complete it will have the capacity to handle 12 million tonnes of cargo per year as well as 200 million passngers.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said the project would secure Dubai’s position as a global aviation hub.

"With limited options for further  growth at Dubai International, we are taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new airport that will not only create the capacity we will need in the coming decades but also provide state of the art facilities that revolutionise the airport experience on an unprecedented scale," he said. 

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