DUBAI, April 13 (Reuters) - Airlines flying into Dubai are preparing for diversions and schedule changes as the emirate's main airport, a hub for tourism and trade in the region, plans to reduce the number of flights it handles during construction work on its runways.
Dubai International, which handled 66.4 million passengers in 2013, making it the world's second busiest airport for international passenger traffic after London's Heathrow, will cut flights by 26 percent for an 80-day period, Dubai's airports authority said on Sunday.
The cut-back will occur between May 1 and July 20 as first one runway and then the other is closed for resurfacing and other construction work, Dubai Airports said.
During that period eight airlines which now fly into Dubai International will divert to the emirate's new Al Maktoum International Airport, which opened to passenger traffic last October. Flights handled by Al Maktoum will increase to over 600 a week from more than 80 currently.
Some flights into Dubai International are expected to be cancelled rather than diverted to Al Maktoum, however; this could temporarily slow growth of Dubai's economy, which depends heavily on international tourism and travel.
Tim Clark, president of Dubai's flagship airline Emirates, said in February that his company planned to ground about 10 percent of its fleet from May because of the runway work, which would affect the carrier's revenue.
Emirates and local budget airline flydubai will contribute 53 percent of the total traffic reduction required at Dubai International, Dubai Airports said. In May 2013, Dubai International handled a total of 31,121 aircraft movements.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Andrew Torchia)