Deep in the Dubai desert, a mega-project has been unfolding. The Al Maktoum International Airport, also known as Dubai World Central, has been under construction for over a decade. In conversation with Simple Flying, Emirates’ President, Sir Tim Clark, confirmed that the airline would move to the airport one day.
In its current form, DWC airport is just a fraction of what will one day become the home of Emirates. The airport was initially expected to be fully operational in 2017. However, satellite images show that while work is underway on the main terminals, it is far from complete. Current estimates suggest that it will be fully up and running in 2027, although the project is currently listed as “on hold” by the Zawya web portal.
Emirates will move to DWC
Speaking with Simple Flying, Emirates President Sir Tim Clark revealed that Emirates would one day move to DWC. The question is one of “when” rather than “if”. Clark told Simple Flying,
I think the government here is amended to build [DWC], according to the master plan that they laid out some time ago. The question is when. Obviously COVID, and everything else has slowed things down. And eventually, Emirates will move down. That’s what the thing has been designed for, essentially.”
The story so far
The Al Maktoum International Airport is already a functioning airport, accepting both passenger and cargo flights and hosting the bi-annual Dubai Airshow. However, the government of Dubai has much bigger plans for the facility. The airport is located around halfway between Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi Airport, with the government hoping that one day it will become Dubai’s main airport.
Of course, the airport is much further out of the city than the main airport. However, it has one huge advantage, space. While Dubai international is penned in on all sides, DWC has plenty of space reserved for its expansion. Indeed, the current area will only play a minimal role in the finished product.
The total cost of the airport has been estimated at around $82 billion. Having officially opened in 2010, the airport was handling more than 1.6 million passengers in 2019. This was aided by a partial closure of Dubai’s main airport, rerouting some flights. However, when complete, it should be able to handle some 260 million passengers. The entire facility will be more than just an airport, also hosting Emirates’ training school, refugee camps, and other such additional facilities.
The A380’s eventual demise will necessitate changes
The airport project has seemingly been on hold for a few years now. When asked by Simple Flying in 2019, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, CEO of Emirates, told Simple Flying that the plans were changing as the airline’s A380 plans had changed.
Dubai Airports planned a large part of DWC around the A380. However, Emirates is currently only looking at operating the type for another 15 years. If it takes seven years to finish the airport, Emirates would only need the A380 facilities for around seven years. As such, some elements of the airport’s design, such as gates with three jetbridges, need to be tweaked.
Sir Tim mentioned this to Simple Flying, adding,
“Of course, the 380s were part of that, but they don’t figure so strongly. But yes, I think the government will eventually – now whether it’ll be at the end of this decade, or the beginning of the next is anybody’s guess – but I think they’ll get there eventually.”