Dubai airport at dawn
Dubai airport. Photo courtesy Dubai Airports

It’s official. Dubai replaces Heathrow as world’s busiest international airport

Dubai International airport (IATA: DXB) has officially become the world’s busiest international airport dethroning long time leader London’s Heathrow airport. As the the year-end traffic report released by airport operator Dubai Airports, in 2014 Dubai handled 70,475,636 passengers up 6.1 from the 66,431,533 passengers recorded a year earlier. In December, which sees significant holiday traffic, the airport saw 6,498,573 passengers up 7.5% from the 6,047,126 in December 2013. Data is based on industry body Airports Council International.

Dubai operating statistics

Dubai Airport Terminal 3 baggage claim carousel. Photo courtesy Dubai Airports.
Dubai Airport Terminal 3 baggage claim carousel. Photo courtesy Dubai Airports.
In 2014 aircraft movements reduced 3.4% due to the 80 day runway re-surfacing programme which curtailed capacity, and the shift of freighter operations and general aviation to Al Maktoum airport at Dubai World Central (DWC). Departures and arrivals totalled 357,339 versus 369,953 in 2013. The increase in passengers and decrease in aircraft movements means the average number of passengers per flight rose to 208.3 up 5.1%. It does help that Emirates airline, also owned by the Al Maktoum family, is the world’s largest operator of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380.

With the shift in dedicated freighter operations, freight volumes at DXB dipped 3.1% to 2,367,574 metric tonnes from 2,443,624 MT in 2013.

India second highest growth market

Western Europe was the top market for growth in passenger volumes (+1,192,831 passengers) during 2014, followed by the Indian sub-continent (+936,449), rest of Asia (+716,180) and North America (+432,597).

Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports indicated the airport forecasts 79 million passengers during 2015 as it gets ready to open Concourse D and boost capacity to 90 million.

Dubai airport hub for India

Dubai Airport Airside Apron Ramp 17
Dubai Airport Airside Apron Ramp.
Virtually the entire civil aviation infrastructure is owned by the Al Maktoum family, and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the uncle of the current ruler of Dubai, is President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and group, including airport services company dnata, Chairman of Dubai Airports which operates both DXB and DWC airports, and Chairman of low cost carrier FlyDubai.

The growth of Dubai’s civil aviation sector is a testament to the vision and perseverance of the Al Maktoum family. Unlike India, the rulers of Dubai brought in seasoned professionals, gave them the independence to perform, and held them responsible for results.

The infographic embedded below shows interesting nuggets of information and shows India’s contribution to Dubai’s aviation industry.

India is the top destination for Dubai contributing over 8.9 million passengers or 12.64% of Dubai’s total traffic. A similar 12% is the percentage of Emirates airline’s total capacity deployed and passenger traffic carried for India. Thus Dubai can claim to have both the unofficial airline and unofficial hub airport of India.

The Dubai Mumbai route is the fourth busiest for Dubai airports after London, Doha and Kuwait.

Dubai airport infographic

Dubai International airport 2014 infographic
Dubai International airport 2014 infographic

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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  1. Siddarth Bhandary

    The info graphic is very interesting. Also you highlighted the key element for DXB’s growth – the vision to have a strong aviation based eco system and letting professionals run the show.

  2. Shekar Chandrasekaran

    Isn’t it true that the majority of the traffic is generated by Emirates itself — a single largest International Carrier? In contrast, LHR has a full variety of airlines coming into it?

    • Heathrow is the hub for British airways which is also one of the biggest airline in the world. Dubai airports geographic position is such that they can fly to any part of the world non stop. I think that is one of the reason for its tremendous growth but in few years they will be running at over capacity because they have Abu Dhabi airport(Etihad), Doha airport(Qatar airways) and dubai world central. With all these airlines growing tremendously and their airports expanding, it is going to be insane competition.

      Not to forget, Turkish airline. The rising star.

  3. Was listening to the CEO on local radio in DXB: They are not just basking in glory. This year they take the challenge to make the experience easy for persons going in/out of dxb. They want to reduce waiting time in check in, immigration queues , baggage pick up. They will create another benchmark. Just look at the e-gate system working for the last 5 years. One can get out of the airport in max 10 mins! Can be done in India – at least for Indian Passports.

  4. I remember seeing a tweet from EK [an infographic actually] that in 2014 they flew around 45 million PAX….so that means the remaining are from other carriers…