World's airports need investment to cope with 'massive growth in the future,' CEO says

  • "Over the last 10 years, the traffic growth has been phenomenal," Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble Monday.
  • Dubai Airports owns and manages the operation and development of both of Dubai's airports — Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC).
  • Passenger throughput — the number of passengers passing through these airports — is expected to hit 90 million in Dubai this year after a period of growth, Griffiths said.

Growth in Dubai's aviation sector has been "phenomenal" but its modest infrastructure means significant investment is still needed, the chief executive of Dubai Airports told CNBC.

"Over the last 10 years, the traffic growth has been phenomenal," Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble Monday.

Griffiths said Dubai's International Airport — the third busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic — had "relatively modest infrastructure over a relatively small airfield" yet was still managing to get the passenger traffic that "is beating all of the global records."

"We're growing faster than the other two airports in the world that are slightly larger than us in (terms of) total passenger throughput, Atlanta and Beijing, and we're catching them up very, very rapidly," he said.

Dubai Airports owns and manages the operation and development of both of Dubai's airports — Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC).

Passenger throughput — the number of passengers passing through these airports — is expected to hit 90 million in Dubai this year after a period of growth, Griffiths said.

"We have tripled our annual passenger through-puts since 2007. So the thing is that as we go forward we've got to find ways of using the current infrastructure more effectively and efficiently. Currently, our traffic for this year is looking to meet our expectations, around 90 million (passenger through-puts) and actually the growth for 2019 is looking pretty good," he said.

Dubai International Airport, the largest airport in space in the world and busiest airport by international passenger traffic. It is also the 3rd busiest airport in
NurPhoto/Getty Images
Dubai International Airport, the largest airport in space in the world and busiest airport by international passenger traffic. It is also the 3rd busiest airport in

Dubai International Airport is seeing investment to the tune of $7.8 billion as part of a 2020 expansion plan to enlarge and refurbish its terminals to increase capacity. Griffiths said more airports would need investments soon.

Currently, 10 million people globally "step on a plane every day," he said, but that number would increase to 21 million in around 15 years' time "and airport infrastructure needs to evolve to actually deal with that massive growth in the future."

Griffiths believes the "explosion of the affluence in Asia" would drive the lion's share of the growth, while established markets like North America and Europe would grow, but at a slower pace.

More airports are being built in China to cope with the expected increase in demand, Griffiths said, while not enough was being done to improve existing airports elsewhere.

"We are going to have to make significant investments both in our new airport and our existing airport because the government here really sees the sense and GDP (gross domestic product) benefit of developing its aviation infrastructure," he added.