Dubai airport traffic could reach pre-Covid levels by early 2024: CEO

Air passenger traffic in Dubai could reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a year ahead of schedule, said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports.

Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images

Air passenger traffic in Dubai could reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a year ahead of schedule, said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports.

“We had 13.6 million passengers in that first quarter [at Dubai International Airport]. This is causing us to revise our forecasts for the year, “he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Wednesday, calling it an” extremely encouraging “result.

“Initially, we were thinking about 2025, but it is very likely that we will return to pre-Covid levels, perhaps as early as the first or second quarter of 2024,” he said.

Q1 passenger numbers for 2022 increased nearly 140% from the same period in 2021 and represents a 15.7% increase from the last quarter of 2021, Dubai Airports said in a press release.

Air traffic plummeted during the pandemic, but Dubai International Airport remained on busiest airport for international passengers in 2020 and 2021, according to the Airports Council International.

The airport served 29.1 million passengers in 2021 and 25.9 million in 2020. Griffiths said he expects traffic to reach 58.3 million passengers this year, still a long way off the pre-pandemic numbers. when the airport saw 86.4 million customers pass through in 2019.

Some of Dubai’s visitors are actually helping to increase our point-to-point traffic numbers to over 100% pre-Covid levels.

Paul Griffith

CEO, Dubai airports

Dubai Airports, which is owned by the city government, operates Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports in the United Arab Emirates.

Travel between Dubai and the rest of the world, or point-to-point traffic, bounced “incredibly hard,” Griffiths said.

“Some of Dubai’s visitors are actually helping to increase our point-to-point traffic numbers to over 100% pre-Covid levels,” he said.

The transit market recovery has been slower and stands at around 60% of 2019 levels, the press release said.

Some markets such as those in Southeast Asia and Australasia have closed their borders for a time, but are starting to reopen now, he noted.

“So we hope that, in May, we will see rebounds in the Chinese travel market, further strengthening in Australasia and all the traditional markets that are very good for us for relocation traffic will return to their former strength,” he said.

China is still maintaining its zero-Covid policy and stiff restrictions imposed to address it outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing in the last weeks.

Rules for traveling

In terms of health and safety requirements for air travel, including aircraft mask tests and mandates, Griffiths said they may soon ease further in Dubai.

“We are not far from total relaxation,” he said, noting that vaccinated travelers in Dubai do not need to be tested upon arrival.

“We are very anxious, of course, to loosen the restrictions, but not until it is safe to do so,” he added.

Separately, the CEO said it is up to the government whether Dubai airports will be publicly listed in an initial public offering.

“The Dubai government, I am sure, will make a decision in due course. And of course we will embrace any decision with great enthusiasm,” he said.

Asked if the company is ready for an IPO, he said, “We are ready for anything.”