In a bid to make Dubai International the primary hub for the Middle East, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai has endorsed an AED28.8 billion ($7.8 billion) project to boost capacity at the airport.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum authorized Dubai Airports to expand Terminal 2 and build a new Concourse 4, which will be connected to Terminal 1 for check-in and baggage services. The project is in addition to the completion of the Concourse 3 project. Capacity of Dubai International will increase to 75 million passengers a year when Concourse 3 opens, set for the end of 2012. Capacity with the new projects is expected to grow to 90 million passengers by 2018, says Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Airports and president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

Another objective is airspace expansion “to ensure that air routes are decongested, bottlenecks are reduced and latent airspace capacity is unlocked,” Dubai Airports says. Officials are negotiating with national and regional authorities and air navigation providers. The authority is proposing use of performance-based navigation and airspace management tools.

Baggage systems will be upgraded and cargo capacity augmented with a 30,000-sq.meter expansion of the cargo terminal. Expected revenue growth from the Dubai International expansion will be used to fund development at Dubai World Central, which opened last year for cargo operations.

Abu Dhabi Airports Co. has issued tenders for construction of a 65-gate, 700,000-sq.-meter passenger terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Oman recently awarded $2.16 billion in contracts for airport and road projects, including a new terminal at Muscat International Airport