Under natural light in the new terminals, passengers will use trains to connect to gates and other parts of the airport.

Story highlights

Al Maktoum International airport set for $32 billion expansion

Enlarged airport in Dubai will be able to host 100 Airbus A380s at any one time

When complete the airport could accommodate over 200 million passengers each year

Visitors to Dubai's current main airport have grown on average by 15% annually

CNN  — 

The world’s biggest airport project received a boost this week as the ruler of Dubai announced a multi-billion dollar expansion to the city’s second airport.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved a $32 billion plan to continue development of the eponymous Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central.

The airport opened its doors to passengers last year but will be beefed up to ultimately accommodate over 200 million passengers per year and 12 million tons of cargo.

The first phase will include the construction of two new satellite buildings with a capacity of 120 million passengers annually and the ability to host 100 Airbus A380 aircraft at any one time.

Emirates, the flag-carrier of Dubai, is Airbus’ largest operator of the superjumbo. It has a current fleet of 52, with 90 more on order.

The first phase of expansion is expected to be completed within six to eight years. The entire development will cover 56 square kilometers.

Currently over half of passengers flying to Dubai are connecting to other destinations and the new airport will build a system of automated trains and people movers to ferry people between gates. The two terminals will be served by three runways while the airport’s master plan has space to add two more.

The growth of the airport to the south-west of the city center ties in with the greater development of Dubai World Central that will include residential and leisure facilities. It will also be the site of Dubai’s World Expo in 2020.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports described the expansion as a “strong endorsement of Dubai’s aviation industry,” and indicated the days of the Emirate’s current hub, Dubai International Airport (DXB), are numbered.

Passenger numbers there are expected to reach 100 million by 2020 – since its inception it passenger numbers have grown an average of 15% per year.

However the airport has little space to expand.

“Our future lies at DWC (Al Maktoum International Airport),” said Griffiths.

Room to grow at Al Maktoum International.

“We are taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new airport that will not only create the capacity we need in the coming decades but also provide state of the art facilities that revolutionize the airport experience.”

As well as packing in the passengers, the expanded airport (and its construction) is set to support 322,000 jobs and contribute 28% to Dubai’s GDP, according to Dubai Airports.

Elsewhere in the region, other airports are being supersized. Qatar’s Doha Hamad International Airport opened earlier this year with the world’s second longest runway, while Abu Dhabi is upgrading its facilities in a $6.8 billion project set to be complete in 2017. Istanbul New Airport, meanwhile, is aiming for an annual capacity of 150 million passengers.

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