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Dubai opens new airport with first cargo flights

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai opened what is planned to become the world’s largest airport on Sunday, starting with cargo operators, making the emirate a two-airport city, as it aspires to build itself into a global logistics hub.

Dubai Airports, the company overseeing airport projects in the emirate, said in a statement Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International (DWC) started with three cargo flights operated by Rus Aviation, Skyline and Aerospace Consortium, with 13 other freight carriers signed up.

Phase one of DWC includes one runway capable of handling Airbus A380 superjumbos, 64 remote stands, one cargo terminal with capacity for 250,000 tonnes of cargo annually and a passenger terminal building capable of handling 5 million passengers a year.

When completed, the airport will have five runways, up to four terminal buildings and the capacity for 12 million tonnes of freight and 160 million passengers a year.

Completion of the up to $10.9 billion project is estimated to take 10 to 15 years.

Passenger flights are planned to begin end of March 2011, subject to IATA schedule changes, it said.

Aviation accounts for about 25 percent of Dubai’s GDP, Sheikh Ahmed said in May. The emirate’s first airport, Dubai International, has the capacity to handle 2.5 million tonnes of cargo, while volumes are expected to increase by 48 percent to 3 million tonnes by 2015, the company said.

“On the passenger side, we expect to see numbers skyrocket from the 41 million that passed through Dubai International in 2009 to 98 million by 2020 and 150 million by 2030,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports.

Dubai International is the fourth-largest airport globally for international passenger traffic, Dubai Airports said.

Signed up cargo carriers include Aban Air, ACI, Aviation Service Management, Coyne Airways, EuroAsian Services, Gatewick, Ramjet, Reem Style, Rial Aviation, Sonic Jet, SunGlobal.

“DWC opened today with 15 cargo airlines signed up and we expect that number to increase steadily over the next few months,” Griffiths said.

Reporting by Tamara Walid; Editing by Greg Mahlich