Dubai International stretches its lead over Heathrow for international airline passengers

DXB, as it is coded, handled a record 78 million travellers in 2015 - an average of one passenger flying in or out every 2.5 seconds

As Britain’s runway debate rumbles on, Dubai’s main airport has stretched its lead over Heathrow for international airline passengers. DXB, as it is coded, handled a record 78 million travellers in 2015 - an average of one passenger flying in or out every 2.5 seconds.

Heathrow handled 75m travellers, the highest-ever for a European airport. But the increase at the main London airport was just 2.2 per cent, compared with 10.7 per cent for Dubai. With the number of flights at Heathrow capped at 1,300 per day, the only ways to increase passenger numbers are for airlines to use bigger planes or to fill more seats on existing aircraft.

Dubai handled fewer flights - an average of 1,100 per day - but the average number of passengers on each plane was 193, compared with 160 for Heathrow. Its main airline is Emirates, which has far more Airbus A380 “superjumbo” aircraft than any other carrier.

Dubai International is about to open a new concourse, costing £830m. The Emirate’s other airport, Al Maktoum, has a projected annual capacity of up to 250m passengers.

Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive of Dubai Airports, said: “It’s another banner year for Dubai International where we broke records, engaged and entertained our customers in new ways, and retained our position as the world’s number-one international hub.”

Dubai’s busiest links were with India, with 10.4m passengers. The UK took second place, with 5.7m - of whom half were flying to or from London. 

Once domestic passengers are taken into account, Dubai lags behind two other airports. Atlanta handled a record 101.5m passengers in 2015, while Beijing Capital airport hit 90m.

Yet in terms of overall passenger numbers, London’s six-airport system remains way ahead of the rest of the world. Adding Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City and Southend to Heathrow’s total, the capital handled around 150m passengers last year - the first time any city has achieved such a total. In second place is New York, with 125m. When the passenger numbers at Abu Dhabi are added to those at Dubai, the total is just over 100m.

On 1 March, Emirates will launch the world’s longest non-stop flight, connecting Dubai with Auckland.

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