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DXB retains title as #1 airport for international travellers

Dubai International Airport (DXB) has net its home Emirate the accolade of the busiest airport for international travellers for the 5th consecutive year.

Annual traffic for 2018 surpassed 89.1 million Emirates and flydubai played a key role World record streak might be broken in 2019 due to shutdowns

Dubai International (DXB) retained its position as the world’s busiest airport for international customer numbers for the fifth consecutive year with annual traffic for 2018 surpassing 89.1 million.  Aside from record traffic numbers, DXB enjoyed a banner year for customer service with shorter wait times and new retail and food and beverage offerings all of which are summarised in Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths’ annual video message.

"Despite a slight fall in traffic in December 2018, for the year, Dubai International still amassed 89.1m passengers –  a 1% increase over 2017, cementing its position as the world’s busiest international airport," Saj Ahmad, chief Analyst – Strategic Aero Research, tells AMEinfo.

"Much of this growth goes hand in hand with Dubai being one of the few cities in the world where homegrown airlines like Emirates and flydubai have proven instrumental in delivering economic growth to the city while expanding to new city pairs that previously didn’t exist as well as the fact that the city is a true gateway for global connectivity.

"Performance for 2019 is expected to be influenced by the several weeks' shutdown of one runway for resurfacing work and while airlines will have to temper their schedules, it stands to reason that the biggest incumbent operators like Emirates and flydubai will be impacted most.

"For that reason, its likely Dubai International will probably not break records in 2019, however, it is still poised to remain the worlds number one airport despite its infrastructure improvements that will provide many future years of efficient operations," adds Ahmad.

Key facts and figures

Customers served: Total of 89,149,387 for the full year of 2018 (+1%). DXB welcomed 7,722,959 customers in December (-1.7%), taking the average monthly traffic at the hub to 7.4 million for the year. The 8-million customer mark was breached twice during the year in July (8.2m) and August (8.4m) making the latter the busiest month in DXB’s 58-year history.

Top destinations

India continued to hold to its position as DXB’s top destination country by passenger numbers, with traffic for the year reaching 12,279,485 – propelled mainly by top city destinations Mumbai, Delhi and Cochin. Saudi Arabia was number two on the list with 6,471,142 customers, followed closely by The United Kingdom with 6,284,771 customers. Other destination countries of note include the U.S. (3,205,524 customers) and the fast-growing markets of China (3,512,075) with 6% growth and Russia (1,533,654) which grew 14.5%.

The top three cities were London (3,817,889 customers), Mumbai (2,540,750) and Kuwait (2,194,576).

Eastern Europe was the fastest growing region with double-digit growth of 16.7%, followed by CIS at 12.9% and Africa growing 9.8%.


Flight movements for the year remained almost flat at 408,251 (-0.3%), while the average number of customers per flight grew slightly to 226 (1.3%) annually.

Waiting Times: Wait times were reduced by 28%* in 2018, thanks to DXB’s advanced operations center which uses real-time information to improve service and efficiency, as well as the smart gates that help speed customers through immigration.


A total of 2,641,383 tonnes of airfreight was handled at DXB (-0.5%) during 2018.

Read UAE: DXB traffic rises to 43.7 million in H1 2018

Baggage volumes: 74.9 million bags (+3.1%) passed through the airport’s 175 km long baggage system during 2018.

CEO Paul Griffiths’ annual video message:

– Dubai Airports manages the operation and development of both of Dubai’s airports – DXB and DWC.

– As integrator, Dubai Airports works to balance the interests of all stakeholders to maintain aviation growth, protect operational resilience and ensure that service providers collaborate to provide a safe and secure service and improve the experience of our customers whilst maintaining a sustainable business.

– DXB is the world’s number one airport in terms of international passenger traffic and number three globally in terms of total passenger traffic as reported by Airports Council International.

– For traffic data, please refer to this fact sheet on our website.

– Some 75 passenger carriers connect DXB to 220 airports in 214 cities across 94 countries.

*Based on a comparison of daily passenger wait times at security, immigration and emigration checkpoints during 2017 and 2018.