Dubai International airport (DXB) is having to revise previous capacity limits to cope with a surge in demand that is outpacing the relocation of services to the new Dubai World Central.

Having previously said 90 million passengers a year was the most it could cope with at DXB, Dubai Airports now expects numbers to reach 100 million by the turn of the decade.

"This year we will be just shy of 80 million, but our growth has exceeded expectations," says chief executive Paul Griffiths. "Every time we forecast, we revise up."

He adds: "We think we will be at 100 million by 2020, and we're scratching our heads to see how we can accommodate that. Our throughput is unprecedented."

DWC, also known as Al Maktoum airport, has been open since 2010 and is undergoing an expansion which will take it from under a million passengers to a capacity of 26 million by 2018. However, Griffiths believes pressure on DXB will remain, partly as a result of the expansion of its biggest carrier, Emirates, which makes up two-thirds of the airport's traffic.

Almost all dedicated cargo flights and an increasing proportion of business aviation traffic now use DWC, and Dubai Airports is offering incentives to passenger airlines to move there. The airport is used by Gulf Air, Qatar Airways and Wizz Air, while DXB-based Flydubai this year began offering alternative services from the new airport.

Griffiths says DWC – to the south of the city, near the Jebel Ali port and industrial zone – caters for a different catchment area, including several newly developed residential, business and tourist districts. However, he admits that persuading more operators to move there is a challenge. "It's all about critical mass. Airline planners tend to be a conservative lot," he says.

A major realignment should take place around 2025 when Emirates is scheduled to move its entire operations to DWC, which will then displace DXB as Dubai's hub. This is despite the fact that many of DXB's terminal buildings are just a few years old.

Source: Cirium Dashboard