A whole new airport experience

Dubai Airports is expanding the emirate’s two airports to second-to-none facilities that will address the demand for more space and higher customer service efficiency for Dubai’s fast growing number of visitors. Vladi Nikolov reports

The aviation sector in Dubai is pivotal to UAE’s economy, forming a substantial portion of the emirate’s GDP. A study conducted by OxfordEconomics in 2013 revealed that aviation supported 416,500 jobs, or 21 per cent of Dubai employment, and the figure is expected to rise to over 35 per cent of total employment by 2030. The strength of the sector is down to the global significance of Dubai’s two large airports – Dubai International Airport (DXB), and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC).

Benefitting from its geocentric location, the open skies policy, and the leading role it has assumed in international trade affairs, Dubai has collected all the pieces to foster immense traffic growth at both of its airports. It was reported early in 2018 that DXB has retained its top position as the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passengers, after statistics for 2017 came in. Dubai’s primary airport is also the third busiest for total numbers of passengers with over 88 million travellers being served in 2017.

Owned and managed by Dubai Airports, DXB and DWC are currently undergoing major redevelopments, in order to meet rising customer expectations and the growing demand for capacity, caused by the everincreasing number of passengers using the two airports. The Dubai Airports Masterplan was devised to outline the work that needed to be done to optimise the operations at both locations, but due to the unexpected rise in passenger numbers, it was revisited and poised to complete even more ambitious tasks, in terms of extended capacity and considerable improvement of customer experience.

The ‘Dubai Airports’ Strategic Plan 2020’ was launched back in 2011 and projected to provide capacity to accommodate 90 million passengers at DXB by 2018. The programme included the construction of Concourse A, which was completed in January 2013, the doubling of capacity at Terminal 2, the refurbishment of Terminal 1, the resurfacing of both runways, the construction of Concourse D (opened in February 2016), and the upcoming upgrade of Concourse C to accommodate Emirates as its sole user.

Boosted capacity
As time progressed, however, it became evident that still more space will be needed at DXB to cater for passengers beyond 2020. This urged Dubai Airports to introduce the DBX Plus programme, whose target is to ensure a capacity of 118 million passengers by 2023. The new project will focus on process improvements and extensive use of the latest technology to boost capacity and service. In total, DXB Plus will include over 350 projects, such as the utilisation of breakthrough retail and F&B concepts, increased self-service options, off-airport check-in, optimised immigration and security processes, new improved air control and air traffic management systems, more check-in and immigration counters, additional aircraft parking stands, and optimised ground traffic management.

In addition to redeveloping DXB, the revised long-term strategy also built upon Dubai Airports’ aspirations to develop DWC as the world’s largest, most advanced, and customer-centric airport in the next decade. The new concept involves significant expansion of DWC’s passenger terminal building, as well as DWC Phase 2, which will redesign the airport in a truly innovative way that will enable the continued escalation of traffic, whilst reaching new heights of connectivity and passenger service.

Construction at the passenger terminal has nearly come to an end, and upon its opening, the refurbished facility will be able to handle about 26 million passengers per annum, a staggering increase from the five to seven million it was fit to deal with before redevelopments. It is expected that tests and trials will take place shortly, prior to its official opening later this year. The reconstruction will play a crucial role in the plans Dubai Airports has for DWC as an airport absorbing additional traffic from DXB, including the gradual transfer of flydubai’s operations from DXB Terminal 2. The future passengers landing, or taking off from DWC will tangibly feel the benefits of certain areas’ expansion. These include the check-in zone, the baggage and immigration halls, and the security screening areas.

Passenger focus
If redevelopment at DWC at this stage looks remarkable, what can we say about the Phase 2 of its expansion programme, scheduled to be delivered in the early 2020s? Its target is to reach a capacity of 120 million passengers per annum, and as aforementioned, Dubai Airports and the Dubai’s aviation sector are taking on the task with a unique approach that will place the customer at the heart of all operations. The airport design will be modular, consisting of two adjacent triple plus-shaped concourses, to optimise connectivity and passenger convenience. The concourses will be connected by automated people movers or trains to a multimodal ground transportation facility, so that the guests are delivered in close proximity to their gate, thus minimising their walking times. The airport’s design will also take good care of transit passengers by optimising their connection times. It is an all-important feature of the project, given that 52 per cent of passengers visiting Dubai are connecting to onward destinations, and predictions are that the figure will continue to grow. Thanks to its modular design, the DWC can be subsequently expanded incrementally, to handle possible increases in demand. According to Dubai Airports’ forecasts, the hike could reach over 260 million passengers per annum by 2040.

Customer experience
Other customer-oriented services that will be incorporated at DWC and will help make it like no other airport in the world, include the opportunity for departing passengers to check-in and drop their baggage before they arrive at the airport. And to eliminate queues, biometrics will be used at departure gates to enable self-boarding capability. The arriving passengers will experience the same hassle-free exit from the airport, benefitting from the biometrics technology of identification, and being offered the option to choose when and where their baggage is delivered away from the airport.

The sizable infrastructural projects undertaken by Dubai Airports reflect the economic strength of UAE, and seal Dubai’s future as a principal destination for business and leisure. It seems that the development of DXB and DWC will turn the two into attractions themselves, worth visiting just for the outstanding customer experience, and the prodigious engineering thought poured in their construction. Shortly we will be ready to pack our bags.