Dubai Airports Posts Best Quarter in Two Years as Travel Surges

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A surge in demand helped Dubai’s main airport post its best quarter since the coronavirus pandemic began, and the Gulf hub may reach pre-Covid levels of travel earlier than expected.

“We’ve revised our year-end forecast and think we’ll be close to pre-pandemic levels perhaps during 2024 — the original idea was 2025 or even beyond,” Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths said on Bloomberg TV. “People are engaging in revenge tourism after two years of lockdown, they’re rushing out to buy tickets.”

First-quarter passenger volumes at the airport rose to 13.6 million, up 15.7% from last quarter, and more than doubling from a year earlier. The airport now expects annual traffic to reach 58.3 million, exceeding a prior forecast of 57 million. 

“While the recovery was initially led by point-to-point traffic, which continues to exceed pre-pandemic levels, the opening of international travel across many key markets has enabled transfer traffic to rebound to 60% of 2019 levels,” Griffiths said in a statement. India was the top destination, followed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UK. 

The comments echo Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who said on Tuesday the airline aims to return to full capacity by the end of 2022 and to break even over the period having been profitable since the start of the year.

Griffiths also said:

  • On inflation: “We’ve come out with a significantly lower cost base than when we went into the pandemic. Combined with the surge in passenger numbers, the inflationary pressure that we’re under has had a fairly minor impact on our business. We’ve been cash positive throughout the pandemic. We took early measure to control costs and we’ve keep costs under control during the recovery so far”
  • On a potential IPO: “That’s a decision for the government to make. There is no serious discussion at management level. However, looking around the world, airports are attractive utilities. The government will decide”
  • On asset utilization: “We’re looking at asset utilization. In the long run, Dubai World Central is an important airport and it will play a key role in the strategy of expansion of Dubai’s aviation sector”
    • Some airlines have moved operations to the city’s second airport as Dubai International’s northern runway has been closed for maintenance works

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