The first test flight at the world's largest airport has touched down, paving the way for passenger operations to begin at the "superhub" next year.

The Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum international airport welcomed its first "live" flight on June 21, one week before its official opening to cargo traffic on June 27, after which passenger flights in and out of Dubai will begin to use the huge airport.

When it is fully complete, the airport will be the largest in the world, with five runways, four terminals and a capacity for 160 million passengers annually - the current throughput of the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, is some 88 million passengers every year.

The airport is set to offer a shopper's paradise, with an initial 2,250 square meters of space, expected to be considerably expanded upon in all four terminals.

The duty free market in Dubai is the largest single duty free airport operation in the world, selling some 5,680,586 bottles of duty free liquor in 2009, 3,603,221 cartons of cigarettes and 2,306,713 bottles of perfume.

Authorities hope that the five runways offered at Al-Maktoum should help to ease the congestion at Dubai International, which has been put under considerable strain by the meteoric growth of the region's flag-carrier, Emirates.

With more planes able to take off and land simultaneously, connections for the millions of passengers that transit Dubai regularly should become faster, boosting the appeal of Emirates' hub-based operations compared to the traditional long-haul offerings between Europe/Asia and US/Asia from established airlines.

Al-Maktoum will be at the heart of a city created around the airport called Dubai World Central, which will house 900,000 people in purpose-built "zones," as well as offering 25 hotels ranging from three-star to deluxe properties and two 18-hole golf courses.