Aggressive expansion of Emirates airline  and flydubai helped Dubai International to overtake London’s Heathrow as the world’s number one airport with big margin in terms of international passengers as Dubai handled 1.8 million more passengers than London during the first two months of the year, according to the data released by both the airports’ authorities.
Dubai International’s passenger traffic rose 13.5 per cent to 12.1 million passengers in January and February, while London’s Heathrow traffic figures reached 10.3 million for the same period.
Last year, Dubai welcomed 66.4 million passengers with 15.2 per cent growth over 57.7 million passengers in 2012. London’s Heathrow reported 72.3 million in passengers in 2013 with 3.4 per cent growth over previous year.
The remarkable growth of Dubai shows that the airport is most likely to overtake London for annual passengers’ number by the end of 2014 as Heathrow’s growth is very low single digit and the airport authorities are facing difficulties to build another runway. 
The Europe’s biggest airport was shortlisted last year as a location for a new runway, but its site near residential areas west of London makes its expansion a toxic issue.
Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson , during a media briefing on Tuesday in Dubai, also criticised British government for not building third runway at Heathrow. “There’s a danger of slipping into the dark ages as we haven’t had a new runway in Britain since 1945 and we have only two runways at our main airport. It’s hopeless situation in the country,” Branson said.
But, on the other hand, he appreciated the efforts of Dubai for building another airport — Al Maktoum International Airport — which is expected to be the world’s biggest airport on completion. “It’s tremendous. The boldness of this country is astonishing.”
A senior aviation analyst also commented that Dubai International is primed for the top airport slot — its performance underscores its global importance.
“Heathrow is an ageing airport with poor aviation rulings that has restrained its growth potential, allowing the likes of Dubai to surpass it,” Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, told Khaleej Times.
Commenting on latest traffic figures, Ahmad said: “Just proves that the Dubai aviation policy to grow airport infrastructure and expand airline capabilities is yielding results.” Emirates and flydubai have been catalysts behind this explosive and continued growth, he added. Double-digit passenger traffic growth continued at Dubai International for the seventh consecutive month during February, according to the latest traffic statistics issued by operator Dubai Airports.
Passenger traffic reached 5.7 million in February 2014, up 11.7 per cent from 5.1 million recorded during the same month in 2013. Traffic was boosted by network expansion primarily from home carriers flydubai and Emirates airline.
“We’ve had a great start to the year and February’s traffic gains bring us one step closer to the number one position for international passenger traffic. We are on track to take over the top spot by 2015,” Dubai Airports chief executive officer Paul Griffiths said in a statement.
Regionally, the Indian subcontinent recorded the highest growth in passenger numbers during the period, followed by Western Europe, AGCC and Asia. Australasia was the fastest-expanding market in terms of percentage growth as a result of Emirates’ partnership with Qantas, followed by Asia, Eastern Europe and North America.
India remained the top destination country (699,179 passengers) with financial capital Mumbai as the busiest destination,  followed by Saudi Arabia (434,454 passengers) and the UK (405,141 passengers). Doha was placed number one on the list of top destination cities followed closely by London, Kuwait and Jeddah.
Total aircraft movements rose 4 per cent to 29,220 during the month compared to 28,085 movements recorded during the same period last year. Year-to-date aircraft movements came in at 61,845, rising 4.1 per cent from the 59,417 movements recorded during the same period in 2013. Passengers per aircraft movements in February rose 3.9 per cent to 209 from 201 recorded during the same period last year.
Freight volumes rose 3.4 per cent in February 2014 to 188,702 tonnes compared to 182,580 tonnes recorded in February 2013.
By Abdul Basit