Dubai's new Al-Maktoum International Airport is unlikely to open to mainline passenger operations before the fourth quarter of this year, as aviation authorities concentrate on capacity demands at the emirate's main hub.
The airport, which opened in June last year to freight operations, has today been formally opened to passenger operations for aircraft with up to 60 occupants, as well as general aviation traffic.
But a spokesman for Dubai Airports, the operator of the new base, admits that passenger operations at Al-Maktoum will be introduced "not before the fourth quarter".
"The focus is on Dubai International Airport where demand for capacity is most important," he says, adding that the schedule for passenger operations is "not etched in stone".
Budget airline FlyDubai had intended to operate from Al-Maktoum but eventually set up at Dubai International. The main hub is still undergoing extensive expansion, with the new Concourse 3 designed to take capacity to 75 million passengers.
This year Dubai International expects to handle 52 million passengers.
Among Al-Maktoum's first customers for its extended licence will be Al Futtaim Services Company which, in a joint venture with a European business jet operator, will provide a range of general aviation services.
Al Futtaim operates a fleet of 12 aircraft including the Airbus A319 Corporate Jet and Bombardier Global Express. Four aircraft will initially be put into an operation featuring a daily flight, says Dubai Airports, although a launch date has yet to be finalised.
"Launch of services at [Al-Maktoum] will lead to a gradual transitioning of general aviation operations to the new airport," it adds. Dubai Airports is predicting 25-40 movements per day at Al-Maktoum by the end of this year.
United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority approval of general aviation operations at Al-Maktoum also includes an amended aerodrome certificate for helicopter flights.