Dubai, the world’s aviation hub in the making

Posted: 31 July 2007 | His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum | 3 comments

Dubai is undergoing dynamic growth in all areas of its economy, which has long diversified away from the oil sector. Today, the contribution of the oil sector to Dubai’s GDP is under five per cent, while the services sector, with an average annual growth rate of 21 per cent since 2000, has been the key driver of Dubai’s economic rise. In 2005, the service sector constituted 74 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.

Dubai is undergoing dynamic growth in all areas of its economy, which has long diversified away from the oil sector.

Today, the contribution of the oil sector to Dubai’s GDP is under five per cent, while the services sector, with an average annual growth rate of 21 per cent since 2000, has been the key driver of Dubai’s economic rise. In 2005, the service sector constituted 74 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.

Dubai’s strategic plan for 2015 lays specific emphasis on travel and tourism, trade and transportation and logistics, among others, as highly conducive sectors for future economic growth. Dubai’s investments in these sectors are in line with this greater plan. The value of investment in Dubai’s tourism, hospitality, leisure, entertainment and real estate projects over the next five to seven years is estimated to be around US $365 billion.

As a result of these developments, the number of visitors to Dubai, as well as the city’s resident population, will rise dramatically over the next few years. The rapid economic growth of the UAE, coupled with the emergence of Dubai as the busiest business and leisure hub of the region, calls for a radical expansion of its aviation infrastructure. Thus plans for Dubai’s logistics and aerospace sectors are very much grounded in realistic projections and well within its capabilities.

What Dubai aims to accomplish in the coming years will change the face of global aviation and the logistics industry. In its quest to make Dubai the world’s aviation hub, Dubai has earmarked investments in excess of US $82 billion for the aviation and aerospace sectors, projects which will be executed in phases over the coming decade.

The plan was put into motion with the beginning of the second phase of expansion at the existing Dubai International Airport. The US $4.5 billion project, which is entirely dedicated to Emirates, Dubai’s international airline, will add two world class concourses and another terminal to the facility, increasing its capacity from 25 million passengers per year to 75 million by 2009.

Terminal 3 and concourse 2 are nearing completion and will be operational by mid-2008, while Concourse 3 will be ready in 2009. With over 90 per cent of its contact gates designed for the superjumbo, Concourse 3 will be the world’s first and only A380-dedicated facility upon completion.

Even as Dubai International Airport’s expansion nears completion, work has already begun on a project to build the world’s largest airport barely 40 kilometres away. Upon completion the International Airport (JXB) at Dubai World Central will have the capacity to cater to 120 million passengers annually and handle 12 million tonnes of cargo at its 16 air cargo terminals.

Of the six runways at the new airport in Dubai World Central, one will be ready by October 2007, allowing cargo operations to begin in 2008. The first phase of the project, which also includes a passenger terminal, will be completed later in 2008.

An estimated US $33 billion will be invested, in phases, in Dubai World Central. The first phase is already underway and involves the development of infrastructure for the US $10 billion International Airport, the Dubai Logistics City, Residential City, Commercial City, the Enterprise Park and a Golf Resort.

The development of the airport is necessary to consolidate Dubai’s position as the world’s emerging centre for commerce and business. While the development of Dubai International Airport has been continuous, there will be no more space for expansion when present projects are completed.


On the passenger side, JXB will have two luxurious terminals – the first dedicated to Emirates airline, the second catering to other regional and international carriers. A third, highly functional terminal is earmarked for low cost charter airlines. Dedicated facilities are also earmarked for executive jet operators.

The airport will have six parallel runways, all of 4.5 kilometres in length and separated by a minimum of 800 metres. A 92-metre high control tower – the highest in the Middle East – with its ‘flower concept’ icon design will create an aviation landmark for the region.

The airport will also boast hotels and shopping malls, support facilities and state-of-the-art maintenance facilities which will create a regional maintenance hub capable of A, B and C checks on all aircraft, including the Airbus A380.

Executive Jet Centre

The Executive Jet Centre will be one of the biggest in the world and will function as a one-stop centre for business jet operations, including leasing and chartering of business jets, ground handling, VIP passenger handling, ground support equipment maintenance, business jet maintenance, aviation fuel, aircraft catering, flight planning, land clearances and special VIP lounges.

Currently being designed with a handling capacity of in excess of 100,000 aircraft movements a year, the Executive Flight Centre is due for completion in 2008. To include a dedicated duty-free, business centre, fitness room, food outlets and crew rest areas, the Executive Flight Centre will also feature a specific area for executive helicopter and heli- taxi operations.

One of the advantages of the Executive Flight Centre is that it is directly connected to a landside secured heliport that will enable VIP passengers to fly their helicopters from the centre to their final destination, such as the Burj Al Arab and The World Islands.

The Executive Flight Centre will also boast specific areas for maintenance, repair and overhaul and aircraft hangars.

Customers will be able to lease a plot for one hangar, or a series of plots attached together to accommodate multiple aircraft.

Dubai Logistics City

DLC, which is the world’s first truly integrated multi-modal logistics platform, is central to Dubai’s business proposition as a global and regional hub for integrated supply chain management and multi-modal transport. The project encompasses all transportation modes, logistics and value added services, such as kitting and assembly, in a single bonded and free zone environment. The facility has the unparalleled advantage of being located just 10 kilometres from a world class sea port – the Jebel Ali Port.

Cargo at DXB and JXB

Cargo at DXB has seen throughput grow at an average 15 per cent annually and has already crossed the 1.5 million tonnes (annual) mark in 2006. Cargo operations commenced at DIA over a decade and a half ago, a period in which it has risen from being just another cargo facility to one of the best cargo centres in the world.

When it was opened in 1991, cargo at DXB was ranked at number 61 internationally, but in the past one and a half decades the centre has made it to the top 10. Cargo throughput at the facility has always been almost to capacity since its opening, compelling a series of expansion projects over the years and the eventual long-term expansion master plan unveiled recently.

In less than four years of operation, in 1995, the centre had to carry out its first expansion project after the annual cargo volume crossed the 250,000 ton mark, four years earlier than the forecasts had projected. The first expansion saw the Cargo Village’s capacity expand by 100,000 tonnes to reach 350,000 tonnes. By 1998, the facility was capable of handling 500,000 tonnes annually and in 2005 the facility crossed the 1 million ton capacity mark.

Considering growth forecasts which indicate that additional major cargo handling facilities will be required in order to satisfy the rising demands, the AED1 billion first stage of the Cargo Mega Terminal is already under construction, while some parts of the phase are already complete. The Mega Terminal will eventually be able to handle an estimated 2.8 million tonnes of freight annually by 2008.

The main components of the ongoing phase of the project comprises the Hall B Express Mail Centre, the Cargo Mega Terminal 1, administrative and agents’ facilities, multi-storey car park, elevated roadways, Central Utility Plant, a mosque and other amenities.

The Cargo Mega Terminal 1, which will add another 1.2 million annual tonnes to the facility’s cargo handling capacity, is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. The terminal will be used by Emirates SkyCargo. The five-storey structure, which will house offices of various agencies such as Dnata, Dubai Cargo Village among others, warehouses, and other necessary facilities, will be connected by an air-conditioned walkway to a multi- storey car park that will accommodate 650 vehicles.

The phased expansion project for the facility is already underway and with cargo movement through Dubai on the increase, the facility is expected to make it to the world’s top five cargo centres within the next few years.

By the time the 16 proposed cargo terminals at JXB are complete and operational, Dubai will be at the top of the world’s cargo and logistics industry, both in terms of volume and capacity.

Apart from the aviation infrastructure, a considerable portion of the multi-billion dollar investments are earmarked for Emirates, Dubai’s international airline, as well as for Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

Emirates has signed contracts totalling US $30 billion to buy 130 aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus and will receive some of these aircraft at the rate of one every month until 2012.

Representing Dubai’s thrust in the aerospace sector, the DAE focuses on aircraft spare parts manufacturers, aircraft leasing and maintenance, airport management, and an aerospace university.

The all round development of Dubai’s aviation, logistics, and aerospace sectors will ensure that the city emerges as a comprehensive global hub where the world truly connects.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is the younger brother of the late Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. He holds a Bachelors Degree from the University of Denver, Colorado, USA. He embarked on his journey in the aviation industry in 1985 when he was appointed President of DCA and soon afterwards, Chairman of the then newly launched Emirates. The Department of Civil Aviation is the governing body that oversees the activities of Dubai International Airport, Dubai Cargo Village, Dubai Duty Free, Dubai International Hotel and Dubai Aviation Club. Under his leadership, Emirates Airline has grown from a regional carrier, to the world’s fastest growing airline with more than 80 destinations worldwide. Emirates will undergo a massive expansion in its fleet as well as its network over the next decade. Sheikh Ahmed is Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, which formulates policies and strategies for the Emirate of Dubai. He is also a Board Member of the General Civil Aviation Authority of UAE.

Related organisations

Related regions

Send this to a friend