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Stands and deliver

Posted 30 June 2017 · Add Comment

Dubai's main gateway will see passenger capacity reach 118 million by 2023. But achieving that ambitious target will mean boosting the number of A380 contact stands. Keith Mwanalushi checks in on progress.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is getting busier. Last year, the airport handled a record 83.6 million people and, in January 2017 alone, monthly throughput reached an all-time high of eight million passengers, according to the traffic report issued by operator Dubai Airports.
With that backdrop in mind, it is no surprise that Dubai Airports initiated a project to expand the number of code F (A380) contact stands available on concourse C.
The airport and its base carrier, Emirates, were challenged with how to increase capacity without building any additional major infrastructure.
DXB is the world’s largest airport in terms of the number of A380 contact stands with a total of 37 code F gates. The number of A380 gates at DXB is set to increase to 47 by 2018 with the start of a project to more than treble the number of code F gates at concourse C (from 3 to 13).
Approximately 800 metres long, concourse C is connected to Terminal 3 through concourse B.
Concourse C, home to flagship carrier Emirates, is undergoing a major upgrade, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, and this includes the expansion of code F gates.
Emirates now has 93 A380s in its fleet and a further 49 on order. As such, DXB hosts the largest and one of the fastest-growing A380 fleets in the world. “In order to maintain this position, and to accommodate the growth in passenger traffic, we need to expand our capacity for not only A380s but other aircraft in Dubai,” explained Bryan Thompson, SVP for development at Dubai Airports.
Upgrade works have been on-going since last year. “The current concourse [C] was not designed for these types of aircraft,” Thompson said. In order to accommodate the A380 he pointed out there was a need to change a number of systems.
Starting out on the airfield, larger aircraft needed to be accommodated on the taxiways leading to the concourse. “We have to reconfigure the aircraft parking stand, fuelling system, aircraft parking guidance system and roadways.”
Once this is complete, Thompson said the airport would have to replace the passenger loading bridges and gate lounges as the number of passengers were far greater on the 380s. “Together with this, we are changing the shopping and food and beverage outlets inside the terminal. The planning and design for the concourse C refurbishment has taken years to complete; this should assist us in a short execution phase and minimise any disruptions on the airport.”
Preparing for the A380 meant airports had to adapt their airside infrastructure. Upgrading runways and taxiways, relocating taxiways and even relocating aircraft stands and buildings to provide sufficient wingtip clearance, are examples of the works that several airports may need to carry out for aircraft of this size.
For airports that will see the A380 frequently, such changes to the infrastructure may be reasonable. When an airport operates close to its full capacity, efficiency of operations is a prime factor as well as safety.
The airside infrastructure requirements for aircraft with a wingspan up to 80 metres (code F) are given by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Annex 14, Volume 1. These requirements are a sound basis for new airport design or future airport expansion but, in most cases, impractical for determining changes to existing infrastructure.
While ICAO member states are encouraged to fully implement the new code F requirements for the development of their airports, it has also become clear that many countries will have difficulties in complying with the specifications for the upgrade of existing facilities.
For this reason, ICAO developed a circular for new larger aeroplane operations (NLAs) at existing aerodromes. It identifies all issues relevant to NLA operations and proposes possible mitigation measures for accommodating them at those airports that are unable to comply with annex 14, code F provisions.
The circular does not specify what is acceptable and what is not; the responsibility remains with the local authority.
On aircraft stands along concourses, there are sometimes difficulties if they are equipped with fixed installations like passenger bridges and light poles. It is sometimes easier to park the A380 on a remote apron, or even the cargo apron, as these have fewer restrictions on aircraft size.
Thompson said the airport operator follows a stringent master planning process, which is conducted by Dubai Airports Engineering Projects (DAEP) – an engineering organisation responsible for the design, master planning, infrastructure development and construction of Dubai’s aviation sector.
“The foresight in the plan has allowed for a seamless expansion of the concourse,” he said.
The DXB plus programme, as it’s formally known, ties in directly with the gate expansion project. The focus of DXB plus is to integrate the sector’s efforts to meet airline demand and ensure a world-class customer experience from ‘cloud to curb’ – vital for delivering unconstrained sector growth.
For the next 10 years, as Dubai’s aviation hub, DXB needs to meet rising customer expectations and growing demand for capacity.
With little room for any further major infrastructure on the airport, Dubai Airports is joining forces with its key stakeholders to design product innovation and operational improvements that will deliver on the sector’s ambition and ensure on-going contributions to Dubai’s economy.
“DXB plus as a programme of work is a very challenging opportunity to make sure that we can continue to grow at the forecast rate to 2025,” Thompson explained.
He said the programme focuses on a limited amount of infrastructure projects, which will allow for the demand to be met. “It is, however, more focused on how we become more productive and innovative with the assets which we have. It relies on better performance across the board at all our touch-points, not only to improve our throughput, but also and more importantly to improve the experience of our customers at the same time.”
The A380 remains central to Emirates’ future growth. To that effect, the newly updated signature Emirates A380 on-board lounge made its first public appearance at ITB Berlin 2017.
In March, the carrier celebrated a successful first year on the world’s longest A380 non-stop route – connecting Dubai and Auckland in New Zealand. The route was first flown with a 266-seat Boeing 777-200LR and then, since October last year, the service switched to the A380, providing up to 491 seats.
Back firmly on the ground and when complete, concourse C will be able to accommodate 13 code F (A380) aircraft and 10 code E (B777) type aircraft – but that’s just one facet of the project.
Thompson said: “Concourse C is not only an upgrade of our stand capacity and gate capacity, we are also changing the duty free, specialty retail and food and beverage offers. The project is also focused on improving the customer experience with improved seating and toilet designs.”

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