Many of them shifted operations to Dubai's newest airport, Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central, which promises to be far bigger than Dubai International with an eventual capacity of 160 million passengers. It opened for cargo flights in 2010 and received its first passengers in October.
Emirates' breakneck growth is the engine driving Dubai International's expansion, Griffiths said. The carrier is the Mideast's biggest airline and the world's largest user of both the Boeing 777 and the double-decker Airbus A380 long-range jets.
Much more work still needs to be done on the new airport before Emirates can move all its operations there sometime next decade.
To keep up with the increased traffic at Dubai International, officials are searching for places to park additional aircraft, working on improving passenger flow through the airport and looking for ways to manage the airspace more efficiently.
Griffiths said his main obsession for now is making sure that the gap between running out of space at the old airport — he expects it will see 103 million passengers by 2020 — and building up enough of the new one is as small as possible.
"It is a very significant undertaking to be operating the world's largest international airport whilst you're building from scratch what will then become the world's largest international airport within the same city," he said. "That's the sort of opportunity that comes less than once in a lifetime."
Dubai International Airport: www.dubaiairport.com
Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck.