DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai International Airport had over 21.2 million passengers pass through its terminals in the first quarter of the year, potentially nearing numbers it saw before the coronavirus pandemic grounded air traffic around the world.
The Dubai airport, the home of the long-haul carrier Emirates, is the world’s busiest for international travel and serves as a bellwether for the global aviation industry.
“DXB’s performance in the first quarter has exceeded our expectations and reflects the strong growth in demand that we are continuing to see across our key markets,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said in a statement, using its three-letter airport code.
With China further easing travel restrictions and Saudi Arabia lifting all pandemic restrictions for the yearly hajj pilgrimage, Dubai International Airport likely will see millions more passengers come through the key East-West transit point.
The airport said Tuesday it had increased its 2023 travel forecast by over 5 million passengers to reach 83.6 million. The airport saw its most-ever passengers in 2019 just before the pandemic, when it served 86.4 million passengers.
March has been the busiest month for the first quarter of 2023, with 7.3 million passengers. The airport said that’s the highest monthly traffic since January 2020, when it saw 7.8 million passengers.
Passenger traffic this year largely has been driven by the airport’s standard travel destinations — India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Russia as well has been a major market as Dubai remains one of the few places still open to Russians amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Emirates’ president, Tim Clark, last week acknowledged the carrier still has some of its double-decker Airbus A380s parked at Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central — a massive facility in the city-state’s southern reaches planned one day to take over for Dubai International Airport. As Emirates fully starts flying again, that will drive more passengers through DXB — and help contribute to the city’s crucial tourism market.
Dubai International Airport serves 234 destinations across 99 countries.