By 2020, the Al Maktoum International Airport will have up to four passenger terminals with an annual passenger capacity of 160 million. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: More airlines are expected to join the three launch carriers at Al Maktoum International before the end of 2013, a Dubai Airports executive has said.

Speaking to Gulf News at the opening of Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer, said he was “convinced” there would be announcements on new airlines flying from the airport before the end of the year. “We are very close to signing some deals with more carriers,” he said.

Dubai’s newest airport and future super aviation hub opened on Sunday with the inaugural passenger flight operated by Hungarian based Wizz Air. Griffiths labelled the opening as a “historic moment” for Dubai and its aviation industry.

Al Maktoum has been opened for freight traffic since June 2010 but only on Sunday did it commence passenger flights. Griffiths said with the first phase of opening the passenger terminal completed the next step will be to expand existing facilities to “cope with incremental traffic growth.”

“Of course the big push will be coming when we start to build more runways and passenger terminals,” he said.

Dubai Airports have targeted operating Al Maktoum as a hub within the next five to 10 years.

Griffiths said there “is plenty of room to expand and create what we believe will be the worlds largest airport by considerable margin.”

The new airport is part of the greater Dubai World Central development and is conveniently located close to Jebel Ali Free Zone and Jebel Ali Port. Griffiths said the proximity to the free zone and port is incredibly important to the freight operators.

“Being able to take bonded freight from Jebel Ali port into the airport and fly it away and vice versa has been a very vital part of the development of freight and logistics at this airport,” he said.

For the time being the new airport is set to be treated as a satellite terminal of Dubai International with only a new hundred staff needed to ensure operations at Al Maktoum International run smoothly.

“What we have done is invest in systems so that we don’t have to duplicate a lot of the functions we have at Dubai International. So all the flight management systems are run from Dubai International and so we treat this a bit like a satellite terminal at the moment,” Griffiths said.

Earlier speaking a representative from National Airlines asked Griffiths if the authorities or Dubai Airports planned to offer any immigration incentives to passengers flying into Al Maktoum and travelling onwards to Dubai International. Griffiths said at present passengers would need to pass through customs at Al Maktoum and Dubai International but that the process could be reviewed if there was sufficient demand.