Dubai International airport has retained its title as the world’s busiest airport by international passenger numbers for the eighth consecutive year.

Last year, Dubai International passenger numbers topped 29.1 million and forecasts predict over 55 million passengers will pass through the Middle East’s largest airport in 2022.

The figures recorded in 2021 were an improvement of 12.7% over 2020 but still a far cry from 2019. That year, with 86.4 million passengers recorded, Dubai International Airport annual traffic exceeded forecasts for the year by more than half a million passengers, on the back of a strong last quarter.

The numbers were propelled by a robust growth in the final three months of the year during which DXB recorded 11,794,046 passengers, 77% more than in the previous quarter. It was the busiest quarter since early 2020, and the first time since the start of the pandemic that DXB’s quarterly traffic surpassed the 10 million mark. December was the busiest month of the year with 4.5 million passengers.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, described an eventful year which, despite the uncertainties of the global pandemic, contained many milestones that demonstrate several bold steps taken by Dubai and its aviation sector to lead the recovery of global air travel. This included the successful hosting of the Dubai Airshow 2021, the world’s first major airshow since the start of the pandemic, the return of DXB to 100% operational capacity with the reopening of Terminal 1 – Concourse D and Concourse A, and the opening of the world’s largest in-house airport laboratory for fast-track processing Covid-19 PCR test samples for visitors.

The airport also welcomed a record number of new airlines connecting Dubai to new destinations and joined the rest of the city in creating a warm welcome for millions of visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai.

Over 55 million passengers by the end of 2022

Describing DXB’s performance in 2021 as nothing short of impressive, Griffiths said, “Despite unprecedented turmoil affecting millions of people all over the world, we overcame many serious obstacles to the operation of the world’s largest international hub and provided smooth, comfortable and safe travel for millions of people travelling through DXB. This performance by all of our staff and stakeholders was achieved in the face of abruptly changing travel regulations and concerns about new waves of infection. Despite these serious challenges, we managed to exceed our own forecasts and continue to retain our crown as the world’s busiest international airport.

“With the eagerly anticipated reopening of key markets such as Australasia and the further easing of travel regulations around the world, the outlook for 2022 is very promising and we are in an excellent position to continue to  lead the world’s air travel sector on the road to recovery.”

Current forecasts indicate that traffic through DXB could reach 55.1m by the end of 2022, but the CEO of Dubai Airports acknowledges that if current trends continue, that figure could be exceeded by a significant margin. It would however take probably until 2024 to see Dubai welcoming similar levels of passenger traffic to 2019.

Dubai International is currently connected to 198 destinations across 93 countries through 84 international carriers – significantly more than in 2019 before the pandemic.

India retained its position as the top destination country for DXB by passenger volume, with passenger traffic for 2021 reaching 4.2 million, followed by Pakistan with 1.8m, Saudi Arabia with 1.5m, and the United Kingdom with 1.2m passengers. Other destination countries of note include the US (1.1m passengers), Egypt (1m) and the Turkey (945,000 passengers).

DXB’s top destination cities during 2021 were Istanbul with 916,000 passengers, Cairo with 905,000, London (814,000) and New Delhi (791,000 passengers).

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