Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International airport conducts its first "live" flight. The first Emirates flight touched down at the airport on June 20, 2010. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: The location of Dubai’s newest airport Al Maktoum International along the Dubai-Abu Dhabi corridor could be poised to directly compete with Etihad and Abu Dhabi customers flying into the United Arab Emirates.

While the new airport is not set to compete on hub status with Abu Dhabi in the immediate future – it currently has only three airlines locked in to fly to two destinations in the Gulf and four in Central and Eastern Europe – it is certainly set to be a contender.

“I doubt that it [Al Maktoum International will cannibalise any traffic from Abu Dhabi International in the short term,” Simon Elsegood, Senior Analyst (Middle East & Africa) at Capa – Centre for Aviation said.

Once completed though the airport will be a super aviation hub with a capacity of at least 160 million passengers per year but reports have said it could be increased to 200 million.

In the long-term, Dubai’s future primary airport could entice airlines over Abu Dhabi as their Middle East/UAE destination because of its easier access to slots and lower congestions, Simon Elsegood, Senior Analyst (Middle East & Africa) at Capa – Centre for Aviation said.

Improving road connectivity could appease travellers in the Dubai end of Abu Dhabi who may elect to travel from the new airport located just over the border.

“With respect to Abu Dhabi, the location in Jebel Ali is closer than the old Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi and with easier access via the Emirates road [Al Maktoum International] could draw traffic from the west,” Ernest S. Arvai, President of consultancy the Arvai Group stated in an email.

But Abu Dhabi is embarking on its aviation network and infrastructure expansion. Etihad has announced a slew of new routes this year and the new Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal is just a few years away from opening.

The question of what happens to the old Dubai International airport remains. Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer, said it could be used for “alternative purposes” earlier this month.

Arvai stated Dubai International could be a viable low fare carrier terminal or be used as a hub to challenge Sharjah.

However, with Al Maktoum International set to have a dedicated low-cost carrier terminal and Dubai Airports already signing up 36 scheduled and chartered freight operators this is unlikely at present.