Its remarkable to think that in just sixty years, Dubai’s airport has gone from being a 5,900 foot runway made of compacted sand to the world’s busiest airport. Figures just released show that the airport has retained its top global spot for the fifth year in a row when an astonishing 89.15 million passengers passed through the airport last year.
Sixty years ago its then ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum probably didn’t envisage anything like this happening when he ordered the airport to be built in 1959. That contract was won by British construction company Costain which built three turning-areas, an apron and small terminal, sufficient at that time to land a Douglas DC-3 aircraft and a major step up from the facilities offered to the flying boats that landed there as part of the ‘horseshow route’ which was then operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). This route ran from Southern Africa via the Persian Gulf to Sydney, Australia.
What Costain wouldn’t give now to have been awarded the construction contracts awarded by the late Sheik’s heirs, who have invested billions in building extensive runways (now 83,000 feet in length), terminal buildings and cargo facilities?
The airport complex now serves seventy five airlines. And they haven’t just invested in construction projects. In November last year, the airport authorities opened ‘smart tunnels’ that use biometric technology instead of human checks, so allowing air travellers to complete passport control in just 15 seconds.
Of course it helps that the Gulf region is conveniently located bang in the middle between ‘The West’ and The East’ thus acting as a major stepping stone between the two areas and so benefiting from the explosion in global trade, but it still took a great deal of foresight on behalf of the authorities there to invest in non-oil related projects.
Not that they are resting on their laurels just yet. In fact, they are believed to be disappointed that they fell short of their target of 90.3 million passengers that they’d set themselves for 2018. Eat your heart out Heathrow.