DXB shows strong recovery after unprecedented year


Higher than predicted passenger figures in Q4 gives confidence to the airport

Dubai International (DXB) made positive strides towards recovery after a challenging year with a total of 25.9 million customers travelling through the airport in 2020, a decrease of 70% compared to 2019.

The airports official annual traffic figures, announced today, showed a positive second half of the year, after a difficult second quarter, with December exceeding industry expectations at 2.19 million customers. The closing data showed a noted recovery in many areas, especially the return to services in global markets thanks to the strength in operations of Emirates and flydubai, and the confidence shown by international airlines coming back into the region.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports commented “In the past year we have witnessed the most difficult circumstances the travel industry has ever faced. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt not only in our sector, but across the entire world. These DXB passenger traffic figures are reflective of that testing environment, but also come with an element of hope and confidence.

An integral part of recovery for the travel and tourism industry is rebuilding the confidence of travellers, and one way to do this is through a vaccination programme, similar to what is currently being carried out by the UAE government. This, along with technology that will allow for seamless and contactless travel, will once encourage more people to get on a plane. In addition, we have transformed our DXB and DWC cargo operations. As an intercontinental hub we are well positioned to support the distribution of vaccines from the countries manufacturing them, to the world.

Looking forward, we are confident of a steady, but optimistic outlook. We are constantly monitoring future schedules and bookings, working with airlines on their plans to return to DXB and new routes to be introduced. This will allow us to ensure we have sufficient capacity and operational capability available to support as the recovery gains pace.”

Key facts and figures
DXB welcomed a total of 25.9 million passengers for the full year of 2020 (-70%).

During the first quarter of 2020, DXB saw 17.8 million customers (-20%) travel through the airport. This significantly slowed through the second quarter due to the ensuing events around the world. For the first time in the 60-year history of the world’s busiest international airport, the month of April saw commercial flights come to almost entire halt, as directed by the UAE government. Over the subsequent months, some 4,100 specially organised and repatriation flights from DXB and DWC allowed more than 500,000 travellers to return to their home countries.

On June 23, 2020 UAE airspace was officially re-opened by the authorities and travel to Dubai for tourism was permitted from July 7, 2020. These regulatory changes had a positive impact on flight movements and passenger figures increased significantly, through until the end of the year. The average customer traffic figures in Q3 and Q4 peaked at 1.3 million.

From a markets and destination perspective, the recovery is strong. There are now 142 destinations (61% recovery) served from DXB in 80 markets (85% recovery) on 56 airlines (75% recovery). There was some growth through the government alliances being made in the latter part of the year, allowing flights to and from Israel.

India retained its position as the top destination country for DXB by passenger numbers, with traffic for 2020 reaching 4.3 million, followed by the United Kingdom with 1.89 million customers and Pakistan coming in third with 1.86 million customers. Other destination countries of note include Saudi Arabia with 1.45 million customers in 2020.

The top three cities were London (1.15 million customers), Mumbai (772 thousand customers) and New Delhi with 722 thousand customers.

Operational Efficiency
While 2020 was a year of uncertainty, one key positive was the strength found in our partnerships. Airline partners Emirates and flydubai both played a pivotal role in the recovery efforts, along with dnata and all the official entities that make up the aviation community in Dubai.

Within the airport environment, customer facing partners in the retail, service, restaurant and beverage areas showed incredible strength and resilience through the quiet period. As one of the first airports to offer financial support to our partners during 2020, we were able to maintain their business and move quickly to reopen outlets as passenger traffic, and demand, increased. These partnerships were also strengthened, and confidence in the future of DXB was shown through contract extensions with existing companies such as Travelex, innovation from long term partners, JCDecaux and new agreements with leading Dubai hotel group, Jumeirah.

In addition, the Dubai Health Authority’s ability to react quickly to the ever-changing environment and needs of the Emirate saw COVID-19 PCR test facilities being set up in DXB for arriving customers, making the movement of tourists and returning residents more efficient.

DXB handled 49,603 movements during the fourth quarter (-49.8%) bringing the annual flight movements to 183,993 (-51.4%), while the average number of customers per flight decreased to 188, -20.3% annually.

DXB handled 571,718 tonnes of cargo in the fourth quarter (-13.3%) with the annual airfreight volume reaching 1,932,022 tonnes (-23.2%) during 2020.