In a fast-growth region like the Middle East breaking records is the norm. Unsurprisingly, the region's three hub airports – Dubai International, Doha and Abu Dhabi – posted record traffic in 2015. Dubai International further widened its lead over London Heathrow as the world's busiest airport for international traffic. It is the third busiest overall, behind Atlanta and Beijing Capital, where traffic is predominantly domestic. Abu Dhabi posted an additional 3.4 million passengers (+17%) and Doha 4.6 million (+17%). Although Abu Dhabi and Doha are collectively 68% the size of Dubai, together they added more passengers (8 million) than Dubai (7.5 million, +11%).
Now the region has the challenge of maintaining growth despite increasing taxes and fees. On 30-Mar-2016 Dubai announced a new AED35 (USD9.53) departure fee. It will be the only fee currently imposed on transfer passengers and Dubai could generate significant millions of dollars from it in 2016. Abu Dhabi and Doha have not increased charges: preserving the status quo could be a differentiator, or, they could succumb to the lure of "easy" cash as Gulf governments look for new revenue sources.
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