Dubai Airport’s deserted terminal comes back to life
Eighteen months ago, its terminals were swarming with transit passengers or travelers arriving to enjoy the desert sun, and then Dubai International Airport became a ghost of itself.
After retaining its crown in 2019 as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers, by early 2021 the effects of the pandemic had left many of its hallways and doors empty, like other such facilities. in the world.
The slowdown, according to Airports Council International, caused the number of passengers at DXB to drop 70% to 26 million in 2020 – making it still the busiest in the world, but a shadow of itself.
Now the airport is hoping to reclaim some of its pre-pandemic glory. On Thursday, he pulled out his main mothball terminal and reopened Hall D, the huge retail area that connects to it.
It’s a move that will be watched with eagerness and caution by the economically struggling global aviation industry as it waits for recovery shoots after months of empty skies and more empty bank accounts.
If the world’s leading international air passenger hub gets back on its feet, it could indicate that other destinations and air routes will follow.
“Dubai’s aviation industry has been at the forefront of a global campaign to restore vital international air services with the opening of quarantine-free travel lanes between the UAE and several countries around the world. “said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Airports, said in a press release.
“This decision indicates that we are confident that the outlook for the remainder of the year and beyond is optimistic, as well as a clear indication of Dubai’s intention to lead the aviation industry in its efforts to enable the recovery. social and economic world. “
Key to the resurgence of air traffic in Dubai has been the creation of safe travel corridors with several countries, including Italy and the Seychelles – routes largely serving Dubai residents or seeking transit traffic. ‘getaway.
“A place for optimism”
DXB Terminal 1 is home to all international airlines that operate from the airport except Emirates Dubai, flydubai and Qantas Airways in Australia, which all operate from Terminal Three.
The reopening of these key facilities will allow the gradual return of more than 40 international carriers, some of which currently operate reduced services from other terminals, the statement added.
Concourse D and Terminal 1 are connected by train from the airport, and the reopening of both will allow an annual capacity of 18 million additional passengers, according to Dubai airports.
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said the airport may even see passenger numbers reach around 26 million passengers this year, roughly the same amount it received last year.
If global travel restrictions continue to ease, the number could be significantly higher than that, he told CNN.
He also said the reopening of Terminal 1 could mean the addition of 3,500 jobs in Dubai’s aviation industry, including airports, airlines and food and beverage personnel.
“There is room for optimism that was not there before,” he says. “The fact that we have remained, throughout the pandemic, the busiest international airport is proof that the future for us is just as bright.
“Our geocentric location in the Middle East is perfect and the efficiency of the operations center that we have built over the years continues to show the world how it should be done. “
Part of the increase, officials said, will be due to the city’s hosting of the long-awaited Dubai exhibition, which is now slated for October, after being postponed due to the pandemic.
‘Gone too far’
While there is gradual improvement, John Strickland, independent aviation analyst and director of JLS Consulting, says there is “no way” Dubai will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
“We have gone too far in the year,” he says. “If you look at Emirates, which of course is Dubai’s biggest customer, it flies around 20 A380s per week, up from 115 in the past. This is already an indicator of a low percentage of activity.”
This, he said, surely played a role in the airline’s recently reported low income.
Emirates, the largest airline operating out of DXB, posted a loss of $ 5.5 billion from the pandemic, down from a profit of $ 288 million a year earlier, despite an injection government cash flow of $ 3 billion.
Marking the first unprofitable year in more than three decades for the state-owned Emirates Group, the company that controls the airline, the negative balance resulted in job cuts representing 31% of its total workforce.
Strickland said it was no surprise the airline lost money, but also did its best to cut losses.
“Dubai has done its best compared to other places in the world. It is a challenge for everyone, not least because they have to deal with a myriad of constantly changing regulations and limitations from governments. “
Al Maktoum, also chairman and chief executive officer of Emirates Airline and Group, warned that even if the recovery looms, the trip will not go smoothly.
“No one knows when the pandemic will be over, but we know the recovery will be uneven,” he said in a press release. “Economies and businesses that have entered a pandemic period from a position of strength will be in a better position to bounce back. “
He added, “Over the coming year, we will continue to take an agile approach to respond to the dynamic market. We aim to regain our full operational capacity as quickly as possible to serve our customers and continue to contribute to the reconstruction of economies and communities affected by the pandemic. “