One of the world’s largest airport projects has come to a halt, prompted by challenging economic conditions, Bloomberg has reported.

Dubai’s Al Maktoum International, also known as Dubai World Central, is destined to have an annual passenger capacity of 240 million by 2040-50. Currently, it serves slightly less than 1 million passengers a year, but its recently completed first expansion phase has taken its capacity to 26 million.

Explaining the installation of such apparent overcapacity, Dubai Airports, which operates both Al Maktoum International and Dubai International Airport, said in 2018 it believed that expansion of the local aviation sector was inevitable and did not want that growth, when it came, to be hindered by a lack of airport capacity.

In an Aug. 30 statement responding to Bloomberg, Dubai Airports said it is “currently reviewing its long-term masterplan to ensure infrastructure development takes full advantage of emerging technologies, responds to consumer trends and preferences, and optimizes investment to grow its already significant contributions to Dubai’s economy. The exact timelines and details of next steps are not as yet finalized.”

According to Bloomberg, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, Al Maktoum International is on hold as Gulf Arab economies falter. It said construction activity has been halted and finances for expansion frozen until further notice, according to the people, who asked not to be named.

It added that completion of the first phase of the airport, envisaged as a super-hub that would allow Dubai-based Emirates Airline to cement its position as a leading long-haul carrier, had already been pushed back five years to 2030.

The cause for the hiatus in development of Al Maktoum International, Bloomberg said, is slowing local economies, with Dubai’s having grown in 2018 at its slowest rate since 2010 because of geopolitical tensions in the region, a slowing tourist sector and lower oil prices.

Al Maktoum International opened for passenger services in 2013 but only handles between 150-200 flights weekly. That figure grew considerably for a brief period earlier this year when one of Dubai International’s two runways was closed for 45 days for major refurbishment.

Alan Dron, alandron@adepteditorial.com