New Dubai airport
December numbers, at close to 3 million passengers, provided some relief for Dubai International. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News archives

Dubai: Dubai International Airport saw 25.9 million passengers pass through its terminals in 2020 in a year when global travel was ravaged by the COVID-19. It meant a 70 per cent drop from 2019’s 86.4 million, which had helped Dubai retain its status as world’s busiest airport for international travelers.

Last year, there were some positives emerging in the second-half, with the December numbers exceeding expectations by totaling 2.19 million fliers, Dubai Airports said in a statement.

“In the past year we have witnessed the most difficult circumstances the travel industry ever faced - the impact of the pandemic has been felt not only in our sector, but across the entire world,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports.

“Looking forward, we are confident of a steady, but optimistic, outlook. We are constantly monitoring future schedules and bookings, working with airlines on their plans to return to DXB and new routes to be introduced.”

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Into partial recovery

There are now 142 destinations (61 per cent recovery) served from Dubai in 80 markets (85 per cent recovery) on 56 airlines (75 per cent recovery), said Dubai Airports. “There was some growth through the government alliances being made in the latter part of the year like allowing flights to and from Israel,” said the aviation body.

India is No. 1

India retained its position as the top destination country for Dubai by passenger numbers, with traffic for 2020 reaching 4.3 million, followed by the UK with 1.89 million and Pakistan in third with 1.86 million. Other destination countries of note include Saudi Arabia with 1.45 million fliers passing through Dubai in 2020.

The top three cities were London (1.15 million), Mumbai (772,000) and New Delhi with (722,000).

Strong first and fourth

During the first quarter of 2020, Dubai saw 17.8 million customers travel through the airport. This significantly slowed through the second quarter due to the impact of the pandemic. On June 23, UAE airspace was officially re-opened by the authorities and travel to Dubai for tourism was permitted from July 7.

Dubai Airports noted that these regulatory changes had a positive impact on flight movements, with passenger figures increasing significantly, through until the end of the year. The average traffic figures in the third quarter and the fourth quarter peaked at 1.3 million.

86.4 %

Number of passengers passing through Dubai International in 2019

Flights and cargo

Dubai handled 49,603 movements during the fourth quarter, down nearly 50 per cent from a year earlier. For the whole of 2020, flight movements stood at 183,99, a drop of 51.4 per cent from 2019.

Dubai International handled 571,718 tonnes of cargo in the fourth quarter (down 13.3 per cent) with the annual airfreight volume reaching 1.93 million tonnes (down 23.2 per cent) during 2020.