Dubai Airport 2023 passenger numbers surpass 2019 pre-pandemic levels 

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The number of passengers flying through Dubai International Airport (DXB) in 2023 surpassed 2019 levels, indicating the airport has largely completed its recovery since the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, handled 86.9 million passengers in 2023. This compares to 2019’s figure of 86.3 million passengers. The airport handled 89.1 million passengers in 2018, so while 2023 fell just short of the airport’s all-time record, the 2023 figure shows the strength that international travel has rebounded in the years since the pandemic. Indeed, the figure for 2022 of 66 million passengers shows just how strongly passenger numbers have surged in the past 12-18 months alone. 

“I think our performance post-pandemic has been quite exceptional and a tribute to the investment we’ve made in the technology to smooth things along and also, in our people who’ve performed absolutely magnificently,” Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports, told The Associated Press. 

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The rise in passenger traffic has largely been driven by traffic to and from destinations in India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan. Russia has also been a major market for the airport given that flights to Russian cities have been allowed to continue, despite that country’s internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Becoming one of the first cities to reopen its doors and welcome back inbound tourism following the pandemic, Dubai, as a major international destination for both business and leisure travel, has seen its economy boosted hugely by visitors entering the country. Indeed, the success of Dubai Airport is often seen as a barometer for the wider economy in the city-state as a whole.  

In early February 2024, Dubai announced its best-ever tourism numbers, saying it saw 17.15 million international overnight visitors in 2023. Average hotel occupancy stood at around 77% while real estate values across the city are currently riding at record highs.  

“The economic contribution to the city of having more and more visitors, it’s obvious for everyone to see,” Griffiths said. “We can see it on the roads, we can see in hotel occupancy, and we see it in the general economy here.” 

The airport has estimated it will serve 88.8 million passengers in 2024, even closer to matching its best-ever year. However, the airport warns that the ever-increasing number of passengers passing through its terminals exerts additional pressure on the wider airport infrastructure which in 2023 saw the highest number of movements in its history at just over 416,000. 

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While the airport has been trying to encourage airlines to switch some services to Dubai’s other airport, Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) at Dubai World Central, Dubai International Airport’s priorities remain the increase in parking stands alongside the introduction of new passenger handling technologies to improve the efficiency of the airport’s terminals themselves.  

As of February 2024, Dubai International Airport offers services to 262 destinations in 104 countries worldwide operated by just over 100 airlines. 

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