The next milestone in Dubai aviation – Jebel Ali Airport

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Gulf - Jebel Ali AirportThe next milestone in Dubai aviation is about to be reached, with the emirate’s second international airport due to open to passengers in October, ushering in “a new era”.

Passengers will join cargo services at Dubai World Central in Jebel Ali — which opened for freight operations in 2010 — on October 27, with two launch airlines already announced: low cost European airline Wizz Air and Saudi Arabia’s Nasair.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Wednesday the introduction of passenger services from Dubai World Central was the first step in the long term development of the airport — which had the potential to become the largest in the world — and would provide “an attractive alternative to travellers”. “A new era in Dubai’s already proud aviation story is set to begin,” Griffiths said. The announcement comes just days after the official tie-up between Emirates and Qantas airlines, which is expected to signal greater air traffic movement through Dubai.

Dubai World Central starts off with a much more modest seven million passengers a year capability than the 60 million capacity of its sister airport, but that could balloon out to 160 million in less than a decade, Dubai Airports’ executive senior vice-president Jamal Al Hai said. “We are almost reaching the limit at Dubai International, and I think it’s a great time to open the new airport (to) passengers.” Al Hai said Dubai World Central had no restrictions on landing times, and aircraft turnaround time would be very quick due to “very low traffic — in the beginning”.

Dubai World Central was open to any passenger airline that wished to come — anticipating Emirates would make the switch around 2017 — but Al Hai expected mostly “newcomers” to go for the newer facility, which would not impact on the passenger numbers at the “overcrowded” Dubai International. “Most of the big cities…have two airports…We are just crossing our fingers for (World Expo) 2020, if this will happen you will see a large move in connecting the two airports by means of transport, roads and bus services.” Al Hai said Dubai World Central would not reach the 160 million capacity figure till around 2020.

CEO of major launch customer Wizz Air Jozsef Varadi said entering Dubai, in one of the airline’s first moves outside of Europe, was “very exciting”. “Europe economically is going nowhere, so that makes you think about your strategy and if you have the ambition to keep growing your business…you need to go somewhere where you can do great (things).”Dubai World Central would have much lower traffic than Dubai International, plus it offered “early bird discounts” on landing fees.

He said only time would tell whether Dubai World Central would become Dubai’s — and the world’s — busiest airport, but he had seen the plans and “ambitions are high”. The airline will launch 14 flights per week to four destinations — Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia and Kiev — with one-way flights from Dubai for as low as Dh349. “People who want to fly from Dubai to other West European cities like London can take Wizz Air’s connecting flight and reach there for just 100 euros (Dh470). Passengers can take our flights from Budapest to London for just 30 euros,” he said. Meanwhile, nasair will operate 50 flights a week from Dubai to destinations around Saudi Arabia.
The heads of the middle eastern wings of the two aircraft titans Boeing and Airbus have praised the passenger opening as keeping apace with the huge aviation growth in the region.

Boeing Middle East president Jeffrey Johnson said creating new infrastructure to cope with the estimated annual Middle Eastern airline traffic growth of 6.4 per cent a year was “increasingly important”, while Airbus Middle East managing director Fouad Attar said Dubai was a world-class service provider. “Its investment in DWC only furthers its reputation as a prominent global destination.”(GT)

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