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Friday, October 07, 2022

Travel is back: Dubai airport enters busiest quarter in years

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) – Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, reported Thursday that it handled more than 13.6 million passengers in the first three months of 2022 – more than double the number last year. In a clear sign the much-awaited travel revival has reached the global aviation hub.

Passenger numbers for the quarter represent the airport’s busiest since the virus struck in 2020, compared to just 5.7 million passengers logged in the same period last year.

However in a sign that long-haul markets have yet to enjoy a full recovery from the pandemic, CEO Paul Griffiths said the airport needs to see transit traffic back to pre-virus levels for at least two years. was not expected. Still, flight traffic has improved as countries around the world loosen COVID-19 travel restrictions such as testing and vaccination rules.

“It’s been extremely encouraging,” Griffiths told The Associated Press, praising government efforts to keep Dubai’s border open, aggressively introducing vaccinations and policies that attract an international workforce. “We are now seeing a massive resurgence. … A new segment of the world’s population is beginning to see Dubai as a very reliable and attractive place to live and work.”

The major east-west transit point, home of the emirate, the jewel of Dubai’s state-of-the-art companies, is expected to handle 58.3 million passengers in 2022.

This year’s passenger traffic so far has been driven by the airport’s reliable destinations and Dubai, the source markets with large expatriate populations – India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

The airport has become one of the few remaining flight corridors out of Russia, following the recent roll-out of Russian tanks in Ukraine and a stacking of sanctions by the West on the Kremlin.

Major US companies have moved employees from Russia to the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf Arab Federation has avoided open criticism of Russia’s war on Ukraine and has not implemented sanctions imposed by the West. The UAE also offers a three-month multiple-entry visa on arrival for Russians. Emirates flights continue between Dubai and Russia.

“Since the start of tensions in Ukraine and Russia, Dubai has been open to visitors from those areas,” Griffiths said. “Where others have closed borders, we have remained open.”

Griffiths also said the private jet terminal at Al Maktoum International in Dubai World Central, the Gulf city’s second airport, has been “incredibly busy”, with traffic increasing by 400% recently. Satellite images show dozens of private jets parked at the terminal.

He declined to elaborate on whether the parked jets had links to wealthy Russians trying to leave the country with their wealth, saying only:

“We just allowed everyone to go about their business.”

Griffith sounded optimistic when asked how Dubai’s airport is rebounding not only from the devastating blow of the pandemic for aviation, but also for travel to retail.

Dubai Airport’s soaring terminals, water springs and artificial palm trees, caverns with duty-free stores and luxury boutiques, depend on revenue from retail concessions. As international passenger traffic collapsed and Chinese tourists largely disappeared, much of that money dried up.

But Griffiths said tourists who have trickled through terminals in recent months are big spenders. The demand for luxury goods remains high in Dubai.

“Interestingly, despite a drop in the number of passengers over the past few years, people who are traveling tend to spend more,” he said. “If we are delivering the experience that people expect, we hope that will be enough to bring people through Dubai.”

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