Capa says 170m passengers to pass through UAE airports over the next 5 years.

The UAE aviation sector will witness strong growth over the next five years as passenger traffic is poised to jump by nearly 70 percent, making UAE the biggest aviation hub in the world.

According to a forecast by aviation think-tank Capa, UAE passenger traffic is expected to jump from over 101 million in 2014 to 160-170 million per annum by 2020, making the UAE the world’s busiest airport system.

Thanks to the strong expansion of the local carriers Emirates, Flydubai, Air Arabia and Etihad Airways, UAE airports have been expanding their capacities to accommodate the growing inflow of passengers.

Dubai International handled record 70.5 million passengers last year, becoming the largest airport by international passengers worldwide.

It expects to reach 79 million this year.

Capa reckons that Dubai’s two airports – Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airport – will handle between 98.5 million to 103.5 million passengers by 2020.

As an aviation hub, Dubai has already surpassed some traditional hubs like Amsterdam, Singapore or Hong Kong and is set to rival the largest international markets such as Tokyo, London, New York and Paris which handle more than 100 million passengers or more per year across multiple airports.

The two airports are also expected to overtake Atlanta and Beijing by 2020, making it the biggest aviation hub in the world.

According to ACI World figures for 2013, London was the world’s largest airport system by passenger traffic, handling 139.7m passengers followed by New York (112.16m) and Tokyo (104.6m).

Dubai Airports CEO Richard Griffiths recently said Dubai Airports will start to approach its natural passenger capacity limits as traffic exceeds 90 million passengers per annum.

The emirate is investing $32 billion (Dh117.44 billion) in the second stage developments of its Al Maktoum International Airport and the related Dubai World Central aerotropolis projects.

Dubai was followed by Ab Dhabi with just under 20 million passengers passing through the airport last year.

Capa sees Abu Dhabi passenger traffic to grow at the fastest pace compared to other airports in the UAE, expanding 50 percent over the next three years to reach 30 million per annum by 2017 and 40 million by 2020.

Sharjah also rode high on the back of low-cost carrier Air Arabia, receiving 9.5 million in 2014 – an increase of over 12 percent year-on-year.

These numbers, according to Capa, are expected to reach 16 million by 2020 and 25 million per annum within 20 years – thanks to fast-growing Air Arabia, opening a new runway, taxiway and air traffic control facility which are enough to handle its needs for the next 15 years.