Dubai: A record 5.8 million passengers passed through Dubai International airport in March, the highest since August 2012, driven mainly by the Western European routes launched by Emirates and flydubai.

Passenger traffic at the world’s second busiest international hub surged 20.6 per cent in the month to 5,846,297 over March 2012, Dubai Airports said in a statement on Monday, adding it was the fourth consecutive month with more than five million passengers and a double-digit growth.

The airport operator further said that the strong showing boosted the year to date traffic to 16.48 million passengers up 15.6 per cent compared with 14.26 million recorded during the first three months of 2012.

According to Dubai Airports chief executive, Paul Griffiths, the growth in passenger traffic is expected to continue in the second quarter of the year owing to ongoing expansion projects at Dubai International.

“We have had a very successful first quarter highlighted by record growth and the opening of the world’s first purpose-built A380 facility,” he said in a statement adding that the airport is one of the most efficient ones in the world with 208 passengers per aircraft movement “thanks to our growing number of A380 operations which led the world in 2012 with 7,259 A380 flights to 28 destinations”.

Dubai International is set to become the world’s busiest airport by 2015.

The largest increase (+227,830) in total passenger numbers in March were recorded on the Western European routes, driven mainly by Emirates and flydubai services to destinations in the region, according to the airport body. Whereas, Middle Eastern routes registered moderate growth (+36,479).

The growth trajectory will increase pressure to get Dubai World Central (DWC) airport open this fall on time and with minimal glitches, says analyst Saj Ahmad of StrategicAero Research. “With so much traffic coming in, capacity is an issue and only DWC can alleviate that in the long term. The last thing Dubai wants to become is a bottlenecked airport with delays like Heathrow,” he told Gulf News.

In terms of aircraft movements, however, Dubai International recorded a total of 31,713 aircraft movements in March, up 8.3 per cent compared to 29,276 in March 2012. Whereas, year to date movements jumped 5.9 per cent to reach 91,130, compared to 86,014 recorded during the first three months in 2012.

Cargo volumes, meanwhile, surged in March with the airport recording 213,748 tons of cargo, marking an increase of 14.7 per cent compared to 186,417 tons in March 2012. The year to date cargo traffic grew by 13 per cent reaching 584,847 tons compared to 517,440 tons during the corresponding period a year ago.

“Both Emirates and flydubai are expanding faster than their competition and it looks likely that this trend will not change for the year,” Ahmad pointed out.