Dubai expects 'stampede' of airlines at new airport
By: Courtney Trenwith
The first full-service carrier to move to Dubai World Central (DWC), the emirate’s new airport, will likely begin operations during the 2014 summer, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths has told Arabian Business.
Griffiths expects a “stampede” of airlines will soon want to move to the second airport, projected to be the largest in the world when it is completed, when they witness the first carriers’ successful launches there at the end of October.
Full-service carriers have so far held back from committing to a move to DWC, which is located south of Jebel Ali, about 20 minutes from Dubai Marina on the outskirts of the city.
Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, told Arabian Business last month he would watch other airlines operating there before making a decision.
“We’re aware of it and we’re conscious of what’s going on. It’s something we’re looking at, but we’ll wait and see what happens there,” he said.
“We’re a small operator here compared to the big carriers – we have two flights a day into Dubai – but it’s clearly something that we’re very interested in.”
Saudi Arabia’s second carrier nasair and Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air will be the first to begin commercial operations at DWC, which is expected to have a capacity of 120m when it is completed.
Dubai International Airport has a capacity of 60m, with terminal expansion plans to see that grow to 90m. Last year it surpassed Hong Kong International Airport to become the world’s second busiest behind London’s Heathrow, which is almost at capacity with no room to grow.
Griffiths said Dubai Airports, which operates both DWC and Dubai International Airport, is negotiating with “a great number” of airlines interested in moving to the new facility.
“We’re talking to a great number of airlines but airlines really don’t like being the first mover and when you see an airline go in and be successful, then you’ll find that we’re overtaken by a complete stampede of airlines wanting to be there,” he said.
“Just the announcement of the [first airlines to operate at DWC] has led to some discussion ... with other airlines, and we are approaching some and preparing proposals.
“So I’m hopeful that over the next few months we will be announcing some more carriers will be operating from DWC.”
Griffiths said full-service airlines were among those he was in talks with, as well as cargo carriers.
“Some of them are, yes. It’s quite possible that the increased convenience of DWC will attract all types of airlines,” he said.
“The cargo traffic at DWC has been very successful. We’ve had our best ever month for cargo at DWC in March, so there is a good precedent to say that once people get used to the idea, the speed, the lack of congestion, the ease of access to the growth, particularly the south of Dubai, it will make DWC a very attractive place to begin or end your journey.
“I imagine what will happen is, we’ll see airlines that have got started there get on and maybe very soon after that, possibly the following summer season in 2014, [a full-service carrier will begin operations there]. We’ll see.”
He hoped “tens of thousands” of passengers will use DWC in its first year.