World’s Biggest Airport Opens Its Doors In Dubai

CXX238 A skyline view of Downtown Dubai, showing the Burj Khalifa  skyline; view; Downtown; Dubai; Burj; Khalifa; dusk; arab; ar
Alamy, Flickr

Dubai has made no secret of its desire to do everything on a grand scale. The country boasts the world’s biggest shopping malls and even the world’s biggest natural flower garden. And now, the Gulf emirate has finally cut the ribbon on the world’s biggest airport.

Although it’s not yet complete, the Al-Maktoum International Airport opened its doors to passengers this weekend. The first plane to land at the new hub , a flight from Budapest, was welcomed with a water cannon salute when it touched down.

The new facility is the country’s second airport and is located about 50 miles away from Dubai International Airport, already one of the world’s busiest gateways. Last year, 57 million passengers passed through its terminals.When the new airport is finished, it will have five runways and be capable of welcoming 160 million passengers a year. It also will have the capacity to handle about 12 million tons of cargo. The new airport is in the middle of a special economic zone in Dubai, which includes one of the world’s biggest man-made harbors and a huge terminal for container ships. Officials believe the new airport will play an important role in shaping Dubai as a center for trade, commerce and tourism.

Despite all the fanfare, only a few airlines have signed on to use the new airport so far, although officials are confident that other carriers will soon follow suit.

The continuing rise of Gulf state carriers

gulf state carriers

The rise of Gulf state carriers continues to impress. These airlines, which have defined themselves in part as hub-and-spoke carriers linking Europe (and the eastern coast of North America) to Asia, have developed exciting route maps over the last several years with a particularly strong reach into the Arabian Peninsula and India.

While other airlines have recently attempted to develop their hub airports for intercontinental hub-and-spoke connections as well – Finnair‘s recasting of Helsinki as a northern Europe-Asia hub is one example – the Gulf carriers really stand out in global terms.

Yet, awareness of their services remains far lower than it should be among Americans, despite the presence of Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways at a handful of major US airports.

The Gulf state carriers’ key consumer product is a luxury flight with premium class service and a truly over-the-top experience on all three airlines. On Emirates, first class passengers are treated to private suites. Etihad’s Diamond First Class features flatbeds, personal mini-bars, and anytime dining, while Qatar Airways’ First Class offers turndown service with an amenity kit including products by Prada. With perks like these, it is clear that these carriers are establishing new standards for premium class service.

Even in coach, however, these airlines are delivering a decent product. I experienced the Qatar Airways economy treatment on a recent mid-haul journey from London, via Doha, and back. There was more legroom than in standard coach and the ongoing parade of meals and snacks was, if not exactly delicious, then without question, a cut above average airplane food.

Route maps, however, provide the most interesting dimension of the rise of the Gulf state carriers. While there is quite a bit of overlap between airlines, each airline covers some original territory. Let’s look at where these airlines fly.Etihad flies from Chicago, New York, and (as of March 31) Washington, D.C., to Abu Dhabi. Etihad also flies direct routes between most major European hubs and Abu Dhabi, in addition to a few surprising ports of call (Minsk, anyone?). In addition to eight destinations in India, Etihad’s more popular Asian destinations from Abu Dhabi include Bangkok, Colombo, the Maldives, and Seychelles.

Qatar Airways links Houston, New York, and Washington, D.C., to Doha. The airline flies to 31 destinations in Europe (including 2012 launches), 12 destinations in India, four in Pakistan, and four in China. Other destinations of note include Zanzibar, Ho Chi Minh City, and Denpasar.

Emirates boasts the best links to the US of all with direct connections from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, and New York to Dubai. Of these, Seattle and Dallas are new routes. The former begins on March 1 and the latter route kicked off on February 2. Emirates’ reach is particularly remarkable. The airline flies to 28 destinations in Europe, 15 destinations in sub-Saharan Africa, 10 destinations in India, and four in Australia; all but a handful of these routes are direct.

With beefed up links to major US airports, premium services to lure business and moneyed travelers, and route maps that show no sign of contracting, the Gulf state carriers look set to be important long-haul standbys for some time to come.

[Image: Flickr | jmmcdgll]

Etihad Airways launches direct service to Washington, DC

etihad airwaysEtihad Airways will begin daily nonstop flights from Washington, DC to Abu Dhabi on March 31, the airline announced.

“No other UAE carrier is offering nonstop services between DC and the UAE, so this capital-to-capital link is a huge opportunity for Etihad Airways,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive.


The Washington region is home to America’s second largest market flying to the Middle East, after New York.

We’re wondering if the highly-acclaimed airline’s new route will cut in to Qatar Airways‘ market share. The airline had previously captured the luxury route with directs to Doha and easy UAE connections.

Last week, the US Department of Commerce released data showing that total trade volume between the US and the UAE rose to $18.3 billion in 2011, a 43 percent increase from the year before. This increase represents the highest trade volume to date between the US and UAE.
It also means that, for the third consecutive year, the UAE is the single largest export market for US goods in the Middle East.

The US is the fifth largest trade partner worldwide for the UAE.

“The point-to-point traffic between DC and Abu Dhabi is expected to contribute significantly to overall loads on the route,” Hogan added.

The direct flights will be operated by a three class A340-500 aircraft. Each flight will offer 12 Diamond First class, 28 Pearl Business class, and 200 Coral Economy seats.

Etihad, the “fastest growing airline in history,” won World’s Leading Airline, World’s Leading Airline First Class, and World’s Leading Airline to the Middle East at the World Travel Awards earlier this year.

[Flickr via rogerbarker2]

Photo of the Day (8.17.10)

Anyone know how to order a half-caf venti soy no foam latte in Arabic?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, today’s Photo of the Day comes from the city of immense scale, renowned elegance, & other worldly air conditioning bills; Dubai. Flickr user JonRawlinson snapped the shot in Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall, where the iconic coffee kiosk has become somewhat of an attraction in and of itself.

Your move, Texas.

Do you have photos of something familiar to you in an unfamiliar setting? We’d love to see them! Upload them to our Gadling Flickr Pool and it could be tomorrow’s Photo of the Day.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk 015: World drinking laws & Portland’s hippest destinations!


GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 15 – Click above to watch video after the jump

In our continuation from last week, we continue to dissect drinking laws around the world – tune in to find out who is the most liberal (no regulation at all) and where in the world you won’t find a single bar.

We wrap up our Portland tour with a showcase of some of the hippest spots that the city has to offer – art, barcades, and the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts!

Stay tuned later this week as we bring you to entirely new destination full of sun, fairways, and sophisticated relaxation!


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