Dubai International Airport (DXB) issued a statement on February 26, 2018, revealing plans to close one of two runways to upgrade during a period of 45 days in 2019. The closure of the southern runway at the world’s busiest airport could mean an approximately 43% reduction in capacity, airport’s spokesperson told The Independent. DXB handles roughly 1,100 aircraft movement per day, operating 24/7.

According to a press release by the airport, the extensive southern runway upgrades will require a full closure of the airstrip since it is “nearing the end of its design life”. The southern runway refurbishment will include placement of approximately 60,000 tons of asphalt and 8,000m3 of concrete to strengthen and resurface the runway and the adjacent taxiways; replacement of 5,500 runway lights and installation 800km of primary cables.

The airport upgrade works will take place from April 16 to March 30 during the seasonal traffic lull. According to Dubai Airports spokesperson, it is too early to estimate the impact of the runway closure on traffic as “this will depend on how airlines respond to the capacity reduction. Some may decide to fly with a larger aircraft if possible, some could see their load factor increase both of which would influence passenger numbers,” The Independent reports.

In 2017 the airport handled 88.2 million passengers and officials say the traffic is projected to exceed 90 million in 2019.

The airport’s northern runway underwent similar upgrades in 2014, when it was closed for 80 days. Just like in 2014, Dubai World Central (DWC) airport, located about 60km away from DXB, will absorb some of the affected flights. DWC has the capacity to handle from 5 to 7 million passengers per year, but the airport is also undergoing upgrades. Upon completion, DWC’s capacity will grow to 26 million passengers per year.

Dubai’s International Airport serves 90 airlines flying to over 240 destinations across the world. It is also an engine for Dubai’s economy serving as a hub for Emirates and Flydubai. According to Reuters, the last closure of DXB cost the Emirates Group an estimated $467 million in lost revenue.

Emirates spokesperson told Sunday Express that “we fully support this enhancement to the airport infrastructure, which is key to Dubai’s development as a global aviation hub.”

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said: “While we regret any inconvenience this may cause to our airline customers and our passengers, these upgrades are absolutely necessary to heighten safety, boost capacity and pave the way for future growth.”