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Everything You Need to Know About Dubai's New Al Maktoum International Airport

Everything You Need to Know About Dubai's New Al Maktoum International Airport
Al Maktoum International Airport
Considering both interior form and function, Dubai's new airport will incorporate shopping complexes and hotels on the site. Photo: Dubai Government/AP

The sprawl of Dubai seems to grow month by month. Which, when hearing of Dubai's new airport, makes one wonder where in the city it could be located? More importantly, perhaps, is when will it open? Below, AD details everything known (so far) about the Al Maktoum International Airport, a futuristic addition to Dubai's skyline.

It almost goes without saying that air travel is big in Dubai. Last year, Dubai International Airport (DXB) handled 86.9 million passengers and retained its crown as the world’s busiest international hub for the 10th year running. As part of its economic agenda D33, Dubai wants to further improve these figures to attract a further $27 billion (Dh100 billion) in tourism investments. But DXB presents an obstacle to that goal: its options for expansion are limited by the residential developments and highways nearby (it’s less than three miles from the city centre). The answer is a radical shake-up of Dubai’s airport offering, with a huge expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport outside the city to replace DXB. Here are the key takeaways on the newly announced plan.

How big is Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International Airport?

Opened in 2010, Al Maktoum was originally built for cargo flights, but in 2022, it received an estimated 877,400 commercial passengers, so it has plenty of infrastructure on which to build. Indeed, tourism in the UAE is growing, with 17.15 million international arrivals last year, up from 16.73 million visitors in 2019, according to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (this statistic represents the city's best ever annual tourism performance).

Once completed, the new “airport city” will be over five times the size of Dubai International Airport (DXB): to put this into perspective, DXB is already ranked the world’s top hub for international passenger traffic, so its scale will be awe-inspiring.

The new Dubai airport will span 27 square miles and will have 400 aircraft gates and five parallel runways. It’s anticipated that the facility will handle 12 million tonnes of cargo per year. To do so, the airport will harness cutting-edge technology to maximize efficiency.

Writing on X (formerly Twitter), Dubai’s ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that Al Maktoum International Airport will have “the world’s largest capacity,” handling up to 260 million passengers per year. It’s intended to fully replace Dubai International Airport within ten years.

Al Maktoum International Airport
The proposed rendering of Al Maktoum's new futuristic hub. Photo: Dubai Government/AP

How much will Dubai’s new airport cost to build?

With construction currently underway, the new Dubai airport’s cost as of June 2024 is $34.8 billion (Dh128 billion.) Based on this projection, it is already the world's most expensive airport.

Who is designing the futuristic new Dubai airport?

London-based firm Leslie Jones Architecture is designing Dubai's new airport. An expert in the sector, the firm has designed airports around the world, from Doha to Hong Kong (most notably, perhaps, is London's Heathrow Terminal 5.) Digital renderings of the studio’s new Dubai design show a futuristic, undulating white canopy with a series of green oases and palm trees beneath. The concept is said to be user-centric and spatially efficient, both of which are vital in a development of this size. There will be a number of shopping complexes and hotels on the site, as well as centers for executive, private and royal jets.

Al Maktoum International Airport
Another side angle of the airport's expansion, which is located over 20 miles southwest of Dubai. Photo: Dubai Government/AP

When will Dubai’s new airport open?

The first phase of Dubai's new airport is expected to be completed within ten years, which will see the airport accommodate 150 million passengers annually.

What impact will Dubai’s new airport have on the city?

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted that the building of an “entire city” around Dubai's new airport will lead to employment and housing for up to one million people. “It will host the world’s leading companies in the logistics and air transport sectors,” he said. “We are building a new project for future generations... Dubai will be the world’s airport, its port, its urban hub, and its new global centre.”

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