Gulf mega-hub development Dubai World Central airport will reach a significant milestone next month with the launch of its first passenger flights, but the realisation of its long-term aspirations are still some way away.
The first scheduled carrier at DWC, Hungary’s budget airline Wizz Air, is due to start passenger service during October. “We expect [other low cost carriers] to follow,” says Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports.
DWC’s passenger terminal has capacity for seven million passengers, although only a fraction of that number will use it next year. Plans for “phase two” of the development are “in discussion”.
The airport was planned as the world's biggest, with six runways and a capacity of 160 million passengers. But development has largely been on hold, with the city focusing on boosting capacity at its existing international airport to cope with the growth of Emirates and demand from foreign airlines.
Opened in 2010, DWC is used by 34 cargo airlines and has been playing a secondary role, catering mostly for freight operations. However, Griffiths expects the new gateway – also known as Al Maktoum International – to “play the dominant role” after 2020, by which time Dubai International will have reached its limit of almost 100 million passengers a year.
Dubai Airports is also talking to some of the mainly low-cost carriers that use the no-frills Terminal 2 at Dubai International about moving to the new airport. However, Terminal 2's biggest operator, Flydubai, has no immediate plans to relocate.
During a runway resurfacing programme at Dubai International next year, some of that airport's flights will relocate temporarily to DWC.
Emirates is understood to be planning to move its operations to DWC long-term, although Dubai International is likely to remain its home until well into the 2020s.