Dubai International Celebrates 50 years of Growth

Dubai, UAE –Dubai International will reach a major milestone tomorrow as it marks its golden anniversary following 50 years of fond memories, smooth operations and double-digit growth.

Dubai International’s humble beginning dates back to 1959 when the then visionary ruler of Dubai, the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ordered the construction of the airport, which comprised an 1800-metre airstrip of compacted sand, an apron, a fire station and a small terminal building. The facility was officially inaugurated on September 30, 1960.

“The 50th anniversary of Dubai International is an historic milestone that marks five glorious decades of growth and achievement, thanks to the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who understood the amazing potential of aviation and took the initiative to build the airport and promote an open skies policy,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman of Dubai Airports. “It is a vision that has been carried forward strongly by our leader HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and has effectively positioned Dubai at the heart of global aviation.”

Starting with annual traffic of a few thousand passengers during its first year of operation, Dubai International reached one million passengers in 1974, with the five million passenger mark achieved 16 years later in 1990. Passenger traffic surpassed 10 million in 1999, largely enabled by a series of expansion and refurbishment projects – including the construction of a second terminal (Terminal 2), two asphalted runways, a new air traffic control tower, an extended terminal building and major equipment upgrade – all of which were carried out to accommodate the robust traffic growth.

Operating at full capacity and experiencing unrelenting growth, Dubai International welcomed the turn of the century with a major addition to its infrastructure in the form of Sheikh Rashid Terminal, also known as Concourse 1 in April 2000, more than doubling the airport’s annual capacity from 10 million to 23 million passengers. Continued growth spurred on by Dubai’s economic boom and the network expansion of Emirates Airline, soon caught up with capacity when the airport surpassed 20 million passengers in 2004. A mere three years later that total ballooned by another 14 million to top 34 million passengers. To accommodate the rapid expansion, on October 14, 2008, Dubai Airports turned heads globally with the flawless opening of the world’s single largest terminal building, Dubai International Emirates Terminal 3. Built for the exclusive use of Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates Airline, Terminal 3 boosted the airport’s capacity to 60 million passengers.

In the half-century since its opening, Dubai International has welcomed over 402 million passengers at an impressive average annual growth rate of 15.5 per cent, and handled over 3.87 million aircraft movements at an average annual growth rate of 12.4 per cent. The rapid expansion of air freight traffic has been equally remarkable, with total volumes moved between 1977 and August 2010, exceeding 17.9 million tonnes at an annual average growth rate of 14.3 per cent.

“In 50 years Dubai International has evolved from a small airstrip mainly serving as a refuelling stop for a few airlines with just over ten thousand passengers to an international gateway for 130 airlines that is ranked among the world’s top hubs for international passenger and freight traffic,” added Sheikh Ahmed. “Passenger numbers will surpass 46 million in 2010 and approach 100 million by the end of the decade. We have indeed come a long way.”

Even as Dubai Airports begins a year of celebrations to honour Dubai International’s golden anniversary, work is on track to build what will be the world’s largest A380 dedicated facility to continue the airport’s proud tradition of keeping pace with traffic expansion. Part of the larger Terminal 3 complex, Concourse 3 will have a total of 20 contact gates, all of which will serve Emirates Airline’s growing fleet of A380s. Upon its completion at the end of 2012, C3 will increase Dubai International’s capacity from the current 60 million to 75 million passengers per annum.

“The past 50 years have been nothing short of remarkable,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. “And the future holds even greater promise as we build our infrastructure to support the impressive expansion of Emirates and flydubai and ascend the ranks of global aviation hubs.”