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World's latest mega-airport finally opens to passengers

By Frances Cha, CNN
October 28, 2013 -- Updated 2326 GMT (0726 HKT)
Following an official inauguration ceremony, the passenger terminal at Dubai's new Al-Maktoum International Airport received its first commercial passenger flight this weekend. Following an official inauguration ceremony, the passenger terminal at Dubai's new Al-Maktoum International Airport received its first commercial passenger flight this weekend.
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Open for business
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160 million
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dubai's new airport welcomed first commercial flight on Sunday
  • When completed in 2027, Al Maktoum International Airport is expected to become the world's largest airport
  • Although it only has three launch carriers, more deals are expected to be announced

(CNN) -- Dubai's aviation industry achieved its biggest milestone to date on Sunday, when the emirate's new airport welcomed the arrival of its first commercial flight.

Located in Jebel Ali and part of Dubai World Central, an "aviation city" that the government launched as a free economic zone, Al Maktoum International Airport is expected to become the world's largest airport upon completion.

Like the emirate's main airport, Dubai International Airport (located 50 kilometers to the north), Al Maktoum International Airport is owned by the government of Dubai and operated by Dubai Airports Company.

Although full commercial passenger services were originally scheduled for 2017, the mega project was delayed for years due to the regional financial crisis, and faces a new tentative completion date of 2027.

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Various reports estimate the total cost of the project at 120 billion dirhams ($32.67 billion).

The airport has been open for cargo flights since 2010.

Opening ceremony

Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air was the first airline to be welcomed at the new passenger terminal, and was greeted with a customary festive water salute.

Al Maktoum International Airport's two other launch carriers are Kuwait-based low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways and Bahrain's full-service Gulf Air, which also made its inaugural flight to the new airport on Sunday.

The UAE's state-owned carrier Emirates is expected to operate entirely out of the new hub by the time of completion.

More: Insider Guide: Best of Dubai

In the works

Gulf News has reported that more airlines are close to signing deals to use the new airport, with the Dubai Airports CEO hinting at more announcements to come.

Currently operating just one main runway, Al Maktoum will ultimately operate five runways with an annual capacity of 160 million passengers and 12 million tons of cargo.

To put those numbers into perspective, the world's current busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, serviced approximately 95 million passengers in 2012.

Dubai International Airport handled 57.7 million.

More: Camel-milk chocolate and other great Dubai souvenirs

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