Dubai Airport soon to overtake Heathrow as traffic rises 15.2%.

Passenger flows through Dubai’s main airport, the world’s second busiest for international traffic, jumped 15.2 percent in 2013 thanks to expansion of its route network and the use of wide-body planes, airport authorities said Wednesday.

Passenger traffic last year totaled a record 66.4 million people. In December, more than 6 million passengers passed though the airport for the first time, an increase of 13.6 percent from a year earlier.At current rates of growth, Dubai will this year surpass London’s Heathrow to become the world’s busiest airport for international traffic. Last year Heathrow’s traffic rose 3.4 percent to 72.3 million people, according to data released by the airport.

Dubai’s double-digit traffic growth rates in recent years have been based on the emirate’s tourism and trade booms. Flagship airline Emirates and budget carrier flydubai are expanding their route networks in Africa, eastern Europe and elsewhere, while the airport last year opened a dedicated terminal for Airbus A380 superjumbo jets.

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India remained Dubai’s single largest destination country last year with 8.4 million passengers, up 14.3 percent. Britain was second with 5.1 million passengers, up 19.0 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia, up 34.2 percent to 4.8 million.

Cargo volumes also hit a record in 2013, rising 6.8 percent to 2.44 million tons. In December, cargo rose 8.0 percent to 218,138 tons.Dubai launched passenger services at its new Al Maktoum International airport last year and Emirates is expected to move operations to the new facility after 2020, a senior executive said on Tuesday.Meanwhile, more than 16.5 million travelers passed through Abu Dhabi International Airport in 2013, up +12.5 percent on the previous year, setting a new annual record.

Aircraft traffic also registered strong growth, with 135,213 movements, up 11.2 percent. The top five destinations from Abu Dhabi throughout the year were India, Germany, England, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

Operator Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) said the increases were the result of its strategy to continually develop facilities and services to benefit its customers. It added that this strategy has seen new airlines attracted to Abu Dhabi, while existing carriers have expanded their services.

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UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways continued its growth plan during 2013 with the launch of new flights to Washington DC, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Ho Chi Minh, Belgrade and Sana’a, as well as increased frequencies on existing routes. Its new partnership with Jet Airways also triggered a significant increase in traffic from India.During 2013, the airport also welcomed new routes to Riga in Latvia, operated by Air Baltic, and to Manila, with flights operated by Philippines Airlines.

ADAC Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said: “Last year was an incredibly busy time for us at the airport and I’m delighted to see everyone’s hard work rewarded by the statistics that show we handled more passengers and freight than ever before, and the airport saw more aircraft arrivals and departures than previously.

“We opened a new arrivals hall for terminals 1 and 3 in 2013 and we made significant progress on our Midfield Terminal Project, which is set to open for business in July 2017 and will increase the airport’s capacity to be able to handle 30 million passengers a year.

“Our growth is complemented by the rapid expansion of Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national airline, as we share together the commitment to world class service levels. With the capacity challenges we enjoy, we fully expect to continue to develop our airports in 2014, and strengthen the emirate’s position as a key global hub for air transport.”

In December, Abu Dhabi International welcomed 1.5 million passengers, up 14.4 percent year-on-year. Aircraft movements were up +9.9 percent to 12,052. It was the airport’s second busiest month of the year, after August.

Freight traffic was up 27 percent to 66,000 tons of cargo in December, bringing the total for the year to 706,000 tons, up 24.4 percent

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