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Dubai Airports traffic may reach pre-Covid levels in early 2024: CEO

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Air passenger traffic in Dubai may reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a 12 months sooner than previously expected, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.

“We recorded 13.6 million passengers in that first quarter [at Dubai International Airport]. That is causing us to revise our forecast for the 12 months,” he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Wednesday, calling it an “extremely encouraging” result.

“Originally, we thought 2025, nevertheless it’s quite likely we will be back to pre-Covid levels — possibly as early as Q1 or Q2 of 2024,” he said.

The primary quarter passenger numbers for 2022 are up nearly 140% from the identical period in 2021, and represent a 15.7% increase from the last quarter of 2021, Dubai Airports said in a press release.

A number of the visitors to Dubai actually are helping boost our point-to-point traffic numbers to greater than 100% of pre-Covid levels.

Paul Griffiths

CEO, Dubai Airports

Air traffic plunged in the course of the pandemic, but Dubai International Airport remained the busiest airport for international passengers in 2020 and 2021, in line with the Airports Council International.

The airport served 29.1 million passengers in 2021and 25.9 million in 2020. Griffiths said he expects traffic to hit 58.3 million passengers this 12 months — still a far cry from numbers before the pandemic, when the airport saw 86.4 million customers come through in 2019.

Dubai Airports, which is owned by town’s government, manages Dubai International and Dubai World Central Airports within the United Arab Emirates.

Air passenger traffic in Dubai may reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, a 12 months sooner than previously expected, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.

Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images

Travel between Dubai and the remainder of the world, or point-to-point traffic, has rebounded “incredibly strongly,” Griffiths said.

“A number of the visitors to Dubai actually are helping boost our point-to-point traffic numbers to greater than 100% of pre-Covid levels,” he said.

The recovery within the transit market has been slower and stands at around 60% of 2019 levels, the press release said.

Some markets resembling those in Southeast Asia and Australasia closed their borders for a period, but are beginning to reopen now, he noted.

“So hopefully, during May, we’ll see rebounds within the Chinese travel market, further strengthening in Australasia and all the standard markets which can be superb for us for transfer traffic shall be back to their former strength,” he said.

China remains to be holding on to its zero-Covid policy, and imposed strict restrictions to cope with outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing in recent weeks.

Rules for travel

By way of health and safety requirements for air travel, including testing and mask mandates on planes, Griffiths said they might soon ease further in Dubai.

“We’re not far-off from a complete rest,” he said, noting that vaccinated travelers to Dubai don’t have to be tested on arrival.

“We’re very anxious, obviously, to calm down restrictions, but not until it’s protected to accomplish that,” he added.

Individually, the CEO said it’s as much as the federal government whether Dubai Airports shall be listed publicly in an initial public offering.

“The Dubai government, I’m sure, in fullness of time will make a choice. And we’ll obviously embrace whatever decision that’s with great enthusiasm,” he said.

Asked if the corporate is prepared for an IPO, he said: “We’re ready for anything.”

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