One of the two runways at the world’s busiest airport for international passengers is to close for 45 days in April and May next year. Nearly half the normal flights could be grounded.
The southern runway at Dubai International Airport, which last year handled over 88 million passengers, is “nearing the end of its design life”.
The airport, whose code is DXB, will close the runway from 16 April to 30 May 2019 for resurfacing and replacement of ground lighting. The aim is “to boost safety, service and capacity levels”.
A spokesperson for Dubai Airports told The Independent: “In terms of flight movements, the reduction in capacity is estimated at this point to be approximately 43 per cent during the 45-day period.”
“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.”
The airport’s northern runway underwent a similar programme in 2014, but the passenger numbers were then around 65 million. Today, the airport handles more than one third as many people.
Dubai is the hub for Emirates, which has an extensive operation from six UK airports: Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. Emirates will launch flights from Stansted in summer 2018.
British Airways normally schedules three Boeing 777s per day between Heathrow and Dubai. The airline could replace them with larger Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 aircraft, to carry a similar number of passengers in two flights.
The timing has been chosen, according to the airport, “when passenger traffic historically ebbs due to a seasonal lull”.
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.”
Dubai airport handles more passengers than Heathrow, but has significantly fewer take-offs and landings because the average size of aircraft is much higher. While Heathrow typically has 1,300 aircraft movements a day, Dubai has around 1,100. It also runs 24 hours a day, while Heathrow’s night operations are severely constrained.
Some flights will be switched to the emirate’s second airport, Dubai World Central (DWC), which is expanding.