Round these parts, we've often mocked Dubai's obsession with having the world's biggest everything. The world's biggest skyscraper. The world's biggest mall. The world's biggest “sustainable underwater tourism site” (no idea). It all seems a bit, well, silly.
But there's one area in which the emirate's obsession with scale has genuinely yielded results – one which is going to have a real and substantial effect on the how to rest of the world gets about the place. As of late last year, Dubai's main aviation hub is officially the busiest international airport in the world.
Here's a bar chart showing international passenger traffic at the world's five busiest international airports.
We’ve chosen a bar chart because the Airports Council International jealously guards historic figures for commercial reasons: we've only been able to show those statistics which have escaped to the broader internet, so a proper line chart would be misleading. Nonetheless, the trend is clear. Four of the airports are growing, slowly; Dubai is growing incredibly fast.
International passengers aren't all passengers, of course. The busiest airport in the world remains Atlanta, but much of the traffic there is people changing from one internal flight to another.
So here's a second graph, this time showing all passenger traffic. It shows the five airports which have consistently dominated the top slots since 2009, as well as Dubai International. We've also included Dubai's rank in each year, to give you a sense of the speed with which it’s climbing the league tables.
Which this suggests is that, in a handful of years, Dubai International will be the busiest airport in the world. And a lot of passengers flying from one continent to another, who'd previously changed planes at Heathrow or Schiphol or Charles de Gaulle will instead find themselves in Dubai.
You can read more about Dubai's plans to create the world’s busiest aviation hub here.