The centre of Dubai feels a long way from Al Maktoum International Airport Dubai World Central


Dassault Falcon 7X

 Al Maktoum International Airport Dubai World Central seems a long way from Dubai.

Falcon 7X Dubai

With the world’s tallest building and the world’s only seven star hotel (although this rating is disputed), it is easy to forget that 40 years ago Dubai was just a small pearl fishing town surrounded by desert.  Driving to this year’s MEBA Airshow was a good reminder of the desert. The Airshow was held at the new Al Maktoum International Airport Dubai World Central.  It is worth examining this name.

It is called Al Maktoum after the family that has ruled Dubai since 1833 and it is an International Airport, so that part makes sense (most of the flights now leaving are cargo ones to places like Afghanistan). Dubai World is the investment company that built the airport, which is fine. But the one part that sticks out is the use of the word: “Central.” It is hard to see what is in the centre of. Apart from desert.

Al Maktoum International Airport Dubai World Central is about one hour in a fast car from the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), whereas Dubai International Airport is 24 minutes from the DIFC. The airport is also over 50 minutes away from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. (Although to be fair, Emirates Hills where many business jet owners live is about 45 minutes from both airports.)

Next year, business jet operations are being moved from Dubai International Airport to Al Maktoum International to free up space for commercial airlines. Most operators have tried to hang on and you can see why. Gama chose to move to Sharjah Airport instead which is 25 minutes from the financial centre.

Despite the distance, the mood at MEBA was pretty upbeat. No one is expecting hundreds of new aircraft to arrive in the next few years, but everyone expects the market to keep growing steadily.

And maybe I just lack the vision about Al Maktoum Airport. Dubai’s rulers have done an amazing job building the city and it is still growing. Some 11 new hotels with 1,581 hotel rooms opened in the first nine months of this year. And just before sending this email I received a press release that France’s Altran and Al Habtoor Trading are creating The Wings Valley project a new maintenance centre dedicated to business jets and helicopters at Al Maktoum. They say it will be capable of maintaining 60 business jets and 40 helicopters per month.

Maybe the city will grow out closer to the new airport, but until then, Al Maktoum is a decent drive from Dubai – or a fantastic opportunity for helicopter salespeople.