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Dubai plans huge airport expansion

Dubai's ruler has endorsed a 32 billion dollar (£19.8 billion) expansion plan for the city's second airport that officials envision will eventually become the world's biggest, the Middle Eastern commercial hub's airport operator said.

The approval sets in motion a vast building project that aims to give the airport known as Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central the capacity to handle more than 200 million passengers per year.

The first phase of the expansion alone aims to build enough runway and terminal space to handle 120 million passengers a year and 100 double-decker Airbus A380 jets at any given time.

The world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, handled 94.4 million people last year.

Once complete in six to eight years, the new Dubai airport will boast five parallel runways spaced far enough apart so they can all be used at the same time and spread over 56 square kilometres (22 square miles), according to the state-backed airport operator Dubai Airports.

The airport opened for cargo flights in 2010 in the desert south of central Dubai. It received its first passengers in October at a single terminal that is mainly used by smaller airlines and low-cost carriers.

The currently larger Dubai International Airport is by far the Middle East's busiest airport and is home to Dubai-based Emirates, the region's largest carrier. It was the world's seventh busiest airport last year, handling 66.4 million passengers.

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