Dubai airport runway work DXB
The northern runway at DXB after the rehabilitation work was carried out over a 45-day period. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The northern runway at Dubai International Airport reopened on Wednesday after a 45-day rehabilitation break.

The runway was closed for traffic starting May 9 for a 45-day period, as part of a regular runway upkeep and upgradation programme. During this period, several flights operating out of DXB were diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), and free shuttle bus services were started to connect the two airports.

The rehabilitation work is completed just in time for the anticipated summer travel rush. Flag carrier Emirates is expecting 550,000 passengers to fly out from the UAE between June and July on over 2,400 weekly network-wide departures. The airline will be operating at close to 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity during this period.

In an earlier interview, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told Gulf News that the runway work was perfectly timed between the Eid rush and the summer holidays.

“The thought of delaying the project did cross our minds, considering that travel demand is picking up. But we have timed it well between the Eid rush and the summer holidays. It could not have been done earlier,” he said.

Detailed preparation

To minimise disruption during the period, more than 1,000 flights per week were scheduled to arrive and depart from DWC, with the majority of those flights being operated by flydubai, El Al, Spice Jet and Indigo.

At DWC, a complimentary parking for up to 2,500 cars was made available. The Roads and Transport Authority ran a free bus service between all terminals of DXB and DWC every 30 minutes, 24 hours per day. The Dubai Taxi Corporation removed the flag fall charges for any journeys starting from DWC for airport customers.

“It takes a long time to plan a runway refurbishment. We had been planning this for the last 18 months,” Griffiths had said earlier.

What was the rehabilitation work all about?

Since May 9, more than 1,000 vehicles and 3,000 people have been working on-site. The project involved resurfacing the entire 4.5km long northern runway. Approximately 160,000 tonnes of asphalt and 30,000 cu.m of concrete were placed to strengthen and resurface the runway and the adjacent taxiways. Some 264 km of secondary cables were replaced and over 4,400 runway lights were upgraded to modern, economic, and environmentally friendly technology as part of the project.

The northern runway was last fully resurfaced back in 2014 and a major upgrade was scheduled for 2024. However, with lower aircraft movements due to the ongoing recovery from the pandemic, the quieter time provided an ideal opportunity to carry out the rehabilitation work. The southern runway was refurbished in 2019.

Busiest quarter since 2020

DXB recorded the busiest quarter since 2020 with 13.6m passengers in Q1 2022, indicating that traffic recovery was gaining momentum at the world’s busiest international hub. This was the second consecutive quarter when passenger traffic at DXB surpassed the 10-million mark.

Flight movements during this period touched 81,966, an increase of 5.8 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2021, during which 77,475 flights were recorded at DXB.

In May, DXB raised its full-year 2022 passenger number forecast to 58.3 million after a sharp increase in traffic. The earlier estimate was 55.1 million passengers.

“DXB’s performance over the past successive quarters is nothing short of impressive and is a direct outcome of Dubai’s clear strategy and efforts to restore international air connectivity and mobility and lead the global aviation industry out of an unprecedented crisis,” said Griffiths.

In 2021, the airport was the world’s busiest by international passenger numbers for the eighth consecutive year, clocking 29.1 million in annual traffic.