Dubai Airport Runway Shutdown – What it Means for Travellers

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Dubai International Airport handles more passengers a day than Heathrow. It has slightly fewer aircraft movements thanks to the aircraft they handle being significantly larger than those flying into Heathrow but it still averages around 1,100 aircraft movements a day. Therefore, the fact that the airport is closing one of its very busy runways for 45 days next year is somewhat concerning for people planning to travel to Dubai. This runway handled around 88 million people last year so they aren’t closing it lightly and travel will be affected.


Why are they closing the runway?

According to airport officials, the southern runway is “nearing the end of its design life” so is being closed for work that will make it safer and increase its capacity. Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said: “While we regret any inconvenience this may cause to our airline customers and our passengers, these upgrades are absolutely necessary to heighten safety, boost capacity and pave the way for future growth.” They chose to shut it down during April and May because there is typically a seasonal lull during this period each year.


What are the options for airlines flying to Dubai?

Emirates, a major airline flying from six airports in the UK, has a major hub at Dubai International Airport and British Airways fly there three times a day. An option for British Airways might be to run Airbus A380 aircraft rather than Boeing 777s so they could transport as many passengers in two flights as they currently do in three. Changing to larger aircraft to run less frequent flights might be an option for airlines during the runway shut down. A spokesperson for the airport said, “It is too early to estimate the extent of the impact on passenger traffic as this will depend on how airlines respond to the capacity reduction. Some may decide to fly with a larger aircraft if possible, some could see their load factor increase both of which would influence passenger numbers.” Another option for airlines will be to fly into Al Maktoum International Airport instead.


How will travellers be affected?

Exactly how travellers from the UK flying to Dubai will be affected will depend hugely on how the airlines decide to deal with the situation. If they decide to fly bigger planes less often, travellers will have less choice about when they travel and will need to plan accordingly. Likewise, if they fly into Al Maktoum International Airport instead, they will have to factor in travel time to and from this airport when planning their trip. This could make a significant difference to their original plans as Dubai International Airport is located quite centrally whereas Al Maktoum is around 38 miles away.  This airport is currently being expanded and will accept more flights soon either way. Whichever way the airlines choose to cope with the runway shut down, people travelling to Dubai at this time will have to be aware of possible changes and be prepared to plan around them.

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