UAE. Dubai International maintained its ranking as the world’s number one airport for international passengers for the fourth consecutive year, with annual traffic reaching 88.2 million in 2017. The figure was a rise of +5.5% year-on-year, according to Dubai Airports.

Traffic volumes averaged 7.35 million passengers per month throughout the year, including record months in January, July and August when traffic breached the eight-million passenger mark. The airport handled 7.85 million passengers in December, up +1.9% compared to the same month in 2016.

Six new scheduled passenger airlines joined the network during the year, including SalamAir, Badr Airlines, and Air Moldova, while home based carriers Emirates and flydubai added three and ten new passenger destinations and increased frequency/capacity on 31 and 22 routes respectively.

The strong traffic performance at Dubai International buoyed Dubai Duty Free in 2017 as the retailer hit US$1.93 billion in sales

India maintained its status as the single largest destination country with 12 million passengers in 2017, up +5.4% compared to 2016. The UK was next with 6.46 million passengers (+6.7%), overtaking Saudi Arabia at 6.4 million (+4.6%).

Markets showing the most significant growth during the year included Russia with passenger numbers surging +28% to 1.3 million and China with 2.2 million passengers, up +19.4% over 2016. The surge follows the relaxation of visa regulations by the UAE, which now offers visa on arrival for both Russian and Chinese visitors. Thailand, bolstered by additional capacity deployed by Emirates, also registered robust growth (+15.2%) with passenger numbers reaching 2.4 million in 2017.

London retained its position as the top destination city with 4,011,598 passengers, followed by Mumbai with 2,477,771 and Jeddah with 2,113,820.

Leading regions measured by percentage growth in 2017 were South America (+36.1%), Eastern Europe (+25.3%) and Asia (+17.9%) – mainly spurred by network expansion by Emirates, flydubai and other carriers.

Aiming high: The traffic projection for 2018 is for 90 million passengers

The average number of passenger per flight grew 6.9% to 223 during the year compared to 209 for 2016, mainly due to Dubai’s position as the world’s largest hub for wide body aircraft, particularly for the A380.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said: “It was a very successful year for DXB as we not only achieved robust growth in traffic to solidify our position as the world’s number one international airport but also delighted our customers with a range of new and exciting services and innovative products.

“We made passenger journeys through the facility smoother by reducing waiting times – by deploying cutting edge technology to track and manage queues in real time, as well as by enabling the use of Emirates ID at smart gates for UAE residents. The year witnessed the launch of WOW-Fi, the world’s fastest free airport Wi-Fi, followed by free streaming movies for our passengers through our partnership with ICFlix. Lastly the Dubai Airshow was a massive success with record orders of US$113 billion and a special Gala Dinner made unforgettable by Jennifer Lopez’s performance.

“With passenger traffic expected to reach 90.3 million in 2018, our focus in the new year will be on the DXB Plus programme which aims to expand the airport’s annual capacity to 118 million passengers through process improvements and use of new technology,” Griffiths added.