Exciting news for frequent fliers to the Middle East: Yesterday, Dubai's biggest airport—and soon to be one of the biggest in the Middle East, if not the world—opened for passenger business.
The Al Maktoum International Airport is still officially under construction, but a Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air flight touched down on the tarmac on Sunday and arrived safely at the new passenger terminal. According to CNN, the plane was greeted with a customary festive water salute. The airport's two other launch carriers are Kuwait-based low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways and Bahrain's full-service Gulf Air, which also made its inaugural flight to the new airport on Sunday. The UAE's state-owned carrier Emirates is expected to operate entirely out of the new hub by the time the airport is complete. The airport has been open for cargo flights since 2010.
Located in Jebel Ali and part of Dubai World Central, an "aviation city" that the government launched as a free economic zone, Al Maktoum International Airport is 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 completion date of 2027. Various reports estimate the total cost of the project at $32.67 billion.
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According to Gulf News, the new airport will be treated as a satellite terminal of Dubai International for the time being, with only a new hundred staff to keep operations running smoothly.