H1 Traffic Consolidates DXB's Position as World’s Busiest International Airport

Kevin Rozario


August 23, 2023

dxb LR exterior

Dubai International has had a strong first half performance.

© Dubai Airports

Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a key milestone in the first half of 2023 by recovering to just above 2019 traffic levels for the same period.

Throughout the pandemic, the Emirates Airlines hub held onto its spot as the world’s busiest international hub while there were some big shifts in rankings for other airports. For example, in 2021, at the peak of the pandemic, London Heathrow dropped from second place in 2019 to seventh, with Istanbul taking its spot, up from 14th in 2019 (source: Airports Council International).

Last year, the rankings settled down somewhat with London Heathrow—which will have a new CEO in October—back in second place again. However, this year is turning out to be a strong recovery year for DXB as the airport welcomed 41.6 million passengers in H1, just over 100% of the traffic recorded during H1 2019.

mod dxb Dubai Airports ceo Paul Griffiths 2

Griffiths: “We’re preparing for an exceptionally busy rest of the year.”

© Dubai Airports

The biggest gains were registered in Q2, during which passenger traffic surged by 43% year-over-year to reach 20.3 million. May was the busiest month during the quarter, processing just below seven million travelers.

Focus on the Guest Experience

At the hub’s operator, Dubai Airports, CEO Paul Griffiths, said: “As we recover, we continue to remain committed to ensuring every guest who travels through our airport leaves with a smile.” The CEO was confident that “providing an exemplary guest experience” was one reason for the hub’s success.

Griffiths cited examples of the airport team going above and beyond to create a personalised experience for every traveler. Among them were communicating with a passenger who had a hidden disability using a translator tool; working with stakeholders to locate a traveler’s lost passport minutes before their flight took off; and helping another recover a lost wallet from his hotel after he had cleared immigration.

DXB has received various accolades including a certification from ACI for its efforts to prioritise a safe and inclusive airport experience for guests with both physical and hidden disabilities.

DXB’s baggage performance was also strong. In H1 2023, volumes increased by 7% compared to pre-pandemic H1 2019. This year so far, DXB has handled approximately 37 million bags, with 92% of all luggage delivered within 45 minutes to customers.

mod dxb h1 traffic infographic

Key figures at DXB in the first half of 2023.

© Dubai Airports

India Still in Front

This year, India has continued to be DXB’s top destination country in terms of traffic with six million passengers in H1, followed by Saudi Arabia (3.1 million), and the United Kingdom (2.8 million).

Other leading destinations include Pakistan (with two million travelers), the United States (1.8 million), Russia (1.3 million) and Germany (1.2 million). In terms of top city destinations, London led with 1.7 million travelers, followed by Mumbai and Riyadh (at 1.2 million each).

As for the rest of the year, Dubai Airports is optimistic about demand levels and is expecting a strong winter season. “We started the second half with strong demand in July, and with the ongoing seasonal peak coinciding with the reopening of schools in August, we’re preparing for an exceptionally busy rest of the year,” said Griffiths.

As a result, DXB has readjusted its forecast for the year from 83.6 million guests to 85 million, which will be 1.6% shy of the airport’s annual traffic of 86.3 million in 2019.