Passenger traffic at Dubai International remained above the five million mark for the 19th straight month in July despite the closure of its two runways for maintenance and upgrading for a period of 80 days.

The airport maintained its growth trend for the year so far as passenger numbers rose by 4.9 per cent to 39.83 million during the January-to-July 2014 period, up from 37.97 million passengers recorded in the same period last year.

According to latest data released by Dubai Airports, passenger traffic at Dubai International dropped by 2.9 per cent from a year earlier to 5.15 million in July as construction work temporarily reduced its capacity. The airport cut back flights by about 26 per cent for 80 days from May 1 due to maintenance and refurbishment of both runways. Flight operations went back to normal on July 21.

“We are back to business as usual at Dubai International,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports.

He said July was a story of two distinct halves: as anticipated, traffic continued to be impacted by the runway refurbishment programme in the first part of the month. “But, crucially, July also marked the successful reopening of both Dubai International’s runways, just in time to accommodate the holiday rush in the last week of the month when we experienced some of the busiest days on record,” he added.

Regionally, Eastern Europe was the fastest-growing region during July 2014, with passenger numbers surging 17.6 per cent, followed by North America (8.8 per cent), South America (4.5 per cent) and Western Europe (3.9 per cent). The Indian Subcontinent and Middle East showed declines as a result of reduced flights during the runway works.

Chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research Saj Ahmad said Dubai International is still on track to overtake London Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport — this feat now looks set to be achieved as early as the first quarter of 2015.

“Despite the runway upgrade work which left Dubai International Airport operating with just one active runway, the airport still managed to report over 5.15 million passengers for the month of July while year-to-date, passenger numbers actually rose by almost two million, paving the way for the airport to still achieve another record breaking year as 2014 comes to a close,” Ahmad told .

“It is likely that the traffic figure performance for August 2014 will be a very robust month and now that the runway upgrading is complete, the more efficient nature of operations will ensure that the airport will continue to pull in traffic and race towards the 70 million passenger barrier,” he added.

In July, Dubai International handled 25,081 aircraft movements, down 11.9 per cent from 28,462 in the same month in 2013. Year-to-date aircraft movements totalled 195,896 during the first seven months, down 7.3 per cent from the 211,373 movements recorded in the same period last year.

These declines were driven by the continued shift by home carrier Emirates airline’s to larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 — taking average passengers per movement during July to 211, up five per cent from 201 at the same time last year. A 26 per cent reduction in the number of flight movements during the refurbishment programme also had an impact on the number of aircraft movements.

“Looking forward, with two newly-upgraded runways which are able to accommodate even more aircraft, the airport is well placed to resume the growth we saw in the first four months of the year,” Griffiths said.

With all dedicated freighters moving to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central from May 1, both monthly and year-to-date cargo volumes at Dubai International registered a downturn.

In July, cargo volumes reached 184,720 tonnes, down 10.7 per cent from the 206,945 tonnes achieved in the same month in 2013. Year-to-date cargo volumes reached 1,367,967 tonnes, down 3.1 per cent from 1,411,896 tonnes recorded in the first seven months of 2013.

Tags: dubai
Photo Credit: An Emirates airline passenger jet taxis on the tarmac at Dubai International airport in Dubai. Kamran Jebreili / Associated Press