Dubai?s aviation industry achieved its biggest milestone yet on Sunday, when the emirate?s new airport celebrated the arrival of its first commercial flight.
Located in Jebel Ali and part of Dubai World Central, an ?aviation city? that the government has 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 50 kilometers to the north, Al Maktoum International Airport is also 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 end date of 2027. Various reports estimate the total cost at 120 billion dirhams ($32.67 billion).
The airport has been open for cargo flights since 2010.
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 airline Gulf Air, which also made it?s inaugural flight to the new airport on Sunday.
State-owned carrier Emirates is expected to operate entirely out of the new hub by the time of completion.
In the works
Gulf News 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.