Dubai's aviation growth has taken another step forward with the go-ahead for plans to boost Dubai International Airport's capacity to 90 million passengers a year by 2018.
The emirate's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has endorsed a $7.8 billion expansion plan that will cover both the airport and the airspace around it, said Dubai Airports, which is responsible for both Dubai International and the giant new Al-Maktoum International near the port of Jebel Ali.
Al-Maktoum International is already open for freight flights. and passenger flights are scheduled to start there in a few months. By 2020, total passenger numbers using both airports have been estimated to reach 98.5 million.
Under existing plans, capacity at Dubai International is already due to grow to 75 million when Concourse 3 is completed by the end of 2012. Under the newly-agreed plan, additional terminal space and concourse areas amounting to 675,000m² (7,266ft²) - around twice the size of London Heathrow's Terminal 5, according to Dubai Airports - will be created through the expansion of the existing Terminal 2 and construction of a new Concourse 4. The new concourse will be connected to Terminal 1 to ease check-in and baggage handling.
Passengers' baggage demands will be accommodated by a new remote baggage facility with a high-speed baggage link to allow connections; some 70% of passengers using the airport at present are in transit through Dubai.
The new plan also calls for increasing aircraft traffic to be handled by a new taxiway and a 60% increase in stands.
Dubai Airports added that it is talking to national and regional civil aviation authorities and air navigation service providers to maximise airspace capacity. This would include the use of performance-based navigation due to be deployed in the next few years to increase airspace capacity.
The aviation sector is forecast to generate 22% of Dubai's total employment and 32% of its GDP by 2020.
"The combination of rallying tourism, Dubai's proximity to the emerging economies of India and China, and the emirates' established role as a trading hub, is together expected to drive traffic growth and further elevate Dubai's status as a global centre for aviation," said the company's chairman, and president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.