Dubai plans to expand Al Maktoum Airport to become the largest in the world

With ambitious plans, could DWC become the largest airport in the world?
Mike Fuchslocher /

Plans are underway to expand Dubai to expand Al Maktoum International Airport/Dubai World Center (DWC), which would make it the largest airport in the world. 

According to Paul Griffiths, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Dubai Airports, which oversees DWC and Dubai International Airport (DXB), expansion is “definitely needed” at DWC as airlines will outgrow capacity at DXB “at some stage”. 

“We will need a new terminal at DWC but the affordability of it, when we will need it, the capacity it needs to be – these are very much open questions based on the forecast of how quickly Emirates, flydubai and other airlines are going to grow over the next decade,” Griffiths told The National during the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Istanbul, Turkey. 

The expansion of the airport will include a new passenger terminal at DWC, which would complement the current passenger facilities. Dubai has previously shelved a $33 billion expansion plan for DWC, which was conceived in 2014. 

“If we have our way, it [DWC – ed. note] would be built by 2032-2033,” added Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, during the same IATA AGM.  

“As we grow the business, we reckoned we were at critical mass a few years ago, but now I think we’re not really at critical mass, simply because our terminal structures and airports won’t allow us to do that,” he continued. 

In a short statement published on Twitter on June 5, 2023, Dubai South, an urban master development project in the city’s south, said: “#DubaiSouth will be home to the world’s largest airport once complete, and a multi-modal transport infrastructure linking air, land, and sea.” 

A masterplan page published on the Dubai South’s website noted that the goal is to house “infrastructure dedicated to a diverse aviation ecosystem on the doorstep of Maktoum International Airport that is destined to become the world’s largest, with proximity to Jebel Ali Sea Port, Dubai International Airport [DXB] and Abu Dhabi International Airport [AUH]”. 

Emirates is currently based at DXB, with DWC seeing little to no passenger traffic.  

According to Dubai Airports, DWC handled 1.6 million passengers in 2019, with the managing company adding that the airport handled more than 650,000 passengers during runway refurbishments at DXB between May and June 2022.  

Furthermore, DWC welcomed 200,000 passengers during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November and December 2022, with some passengers having been forced to shuttle to Qatar due to the lack of accommodation at the event host country. 

All in all, DWC welcomed 494,000 passengers in Q4 2022. In comparison, DXB saw 86.3 million passengers in 2019 and 66 million in 2022. 

Related Posts

AeroTime is on YouTube

Subscribe to the AeroTime Hub channel for exclusive video content.

Subscribe to AeroTime Hub