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Dubai airports set for colossal expansion. How much will plans cost the country and climate?

An Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 11, 2019.
An Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 11, 2019. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Charlotte Elton
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Dubai’s ‘second airport’ could handle up to 250 million passengers a year by 2050.


As air traffic booms, Dubai’s two airports are planning a massive expansion.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the busiest international traveller hub in the world. It’s set to become even busier, with a €1.5 to €2.5 billion revamp planned for the next 5 to 7 years.

The plans - unveiled by Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths last week - will see DXB handle up to 120 million annual passengers within 15 years.

But this growth is the tip of the iceberg.

Once DXB reaches peak capacity, Dubai’s second hub - Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) - will become “the world’s largest airport,” developers have claimed.

DWC currently accommodates around 1.6 million passengers per year. But this could grow to over 250 million by 2050.

“We have to accelerate our efforts to improve the capacity of the existing airport in the short term, which will cover us for the next 10 to 15 years,” Griffiths told Bloomberg Television last week.

“Then, we have to have a real push to develop the big one.”

What will Dubai International Airport look like?

DXB is one of the world’s biggest airports.

It handled 41.6 million passengers in the first half of 2023 - surpassing 2019 levels in the same period. Experts predict that annual numbers will reach 85 million, driven by a rebound in air traffic from China.

The DXB overhaul will see the airport gain additional lounges, check-in desks and seating, and introduce new security scanners that don’t require passengers to remove liquids.

They will also concentrate restaurants and food hubs in one part of each terminal.

AP Photo
Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports, waves after an interview with The Associated Press in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.AP Photo

What will Dubai World Central Airport look like?

Dubai World Central Airport currently handles just a fraction of the city’s arrivals.

But developers are currently drafting plans to make it the largest airport in the world. Dubai previously deferred a €30 billion expansion plan for DWC, but this could be restarted.

Local reports indicate that the first stage of the project will enhance the airport’s capacity to about 130 million passengers annually, and the entire development will cover an area of 56 square kilometres.


Dubai South, an urban master development project, has teased the project on its social media.

“#DubaiSouth will be home to the world’s largest airport once complete, and a multi-modal transport infrastructure linking air, land, and sea,” they said.

The environmental footprint of this expansion will likely be huge.

In 2019, DXB’s 83 million passengers emitted 16.65 million metric tons of CO2 - the highest total of any airport in the world.

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