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As one door opens...

While the ever-expanding Dubai International opens its new terminal, BAA is set to lose its second-largest hub.
COMMENT, Transportation

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While the ever-expanding Dubai International prepares itself for the opening of T3, BAA is set to lose its second-largest hub.

Gatwick Airport has been put up for sale by its owners, following a statement issued by the Competition Commission saying that it had found competition problems at each of BAA's seven UK airports, with adverse consequences for passengers and airlines.

BAA is taking a pragmatic approach to the move as it comes under increased pressure to consider selling off another one of its two remaining London hubs - Heathrow and Stansted.

But for Dubai International it's a very different story. The airport will open its new terminal this month, and bosses are adopting a more measured approach than that of BAA when opening Heathrow's Terminal 5 (T5).

Plans are underway to open the impressive new terminal in stages, in a bid to avoid the chaos that plagued Heathrow's T5. BAA's ill-fated decision to open T5 on one day backfired as the terminal's baggage system malfunctioned and thousands of passenger bags went missing. Consequently, Dubai Airports has chosen to open its doors progressively, allowing for any shortcomings to be identified and corrected.

Its trial days, which have taken place over the summer months, have also paved the way for what ought to be a seamless opening for a terminal and concourse that is double the size of Heathrow's T5.

Following some delay (the facility was scheduled to open in mid-2008), the opening of T3 is vital to the region's tourism market as it will enable the airport to cope with some 60 million passengers annually by the year 2010.

As passenger traffic figures boom the much-needed terminal and its associated new facilities will play a huge role in supporting Dubai's economic progress and will also contribute to the rapid expansion of Emirates' fleet.

As service failures have turned public sentiment against BAA and more and more contradicting interest groups and policies emerge, it is fair to say that Europe is in danger of falling behind.

Sarah Cowell is the editor of Airport Middle East.

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