Abu Dhabi airport prepares to handle up to 40m passengers

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By Samia Badih  gulfnews.com

Renovation of terminal 1 will be finished in a couple of weeks

Abu Dhabi AirportAbu Dhabi’s airport is currently one of the fastest growing in the world, and is expected to handle up to 40 million passengers once its $6.8 billion expansion plan is complete.

Gulf News spoke to Ahmad Al Haddabi, Senior Vice-President of Airport Operations at Abu Dhabi Airports Company, about the master plan, new developments and the changing face of Abu Dhabi airport.

Gulf News: Can you tell us about the development so far?

Ahmad Al Haddabi: We will hopefully finish the renovation of Terminal 1 within the next few weeks, which includes new lounges for First and Business Class as well as a new duty-free store and new food and beverage outlets.

We are also building 19 new hard stands, some of which are already finished and the rest are due to follow in the next few months. We have increased the number of X-ray machines in Terminal 1, as well as the capacity of immigration by 30 per cent for departing passengers and 40 per cent for arrivals.

Work is also ongoing at Terminal 3 to cater to another five million people. We have also finished building the air-conditioned T3 car park, which is among the very few in the world that can accommodate up to 3,000 cars. We always strive to have our capacity meet the demand requirements. The new Air Traffic Control tower is in the final soft opening stages; so we are still not officially opened because we are working on the final trials. Hopefully it should be coming on line in the next few weeks, The new midfield terminal is expected to come on line in 2016. A contractor is expected to be chosen for the project by the end of this year.

When is the refurbishment of Terminal 1 going to be finished?

The good news is that it will be opened before the end of this month. The Terminal 1 entrance was closed because of maintenance work, and that was part of the renovation where we needed to have new ceilings, new flooring and new decorations. So it was closed because there was maintenance that needed to be done.

Was it tough to do renovations in Terminal 1 while it was still operational?

It was not easy, but we have skilled people who were able to address every complaint on time. We increased our customer service personnel to help people. So while it was not easy, it was a really good experience as well.

Will terminals 1 and 3 be equipped for the Airbus A380?

Terminal 3 is equipped to receive two A380s. We are now adding one more capacity and it will be finished by the end of 2012. For Terminal 1, technically we can’t do it because of the design.

What’s happening with Terminal 2?

Terminal 2 was refurbished three years ago. It has a big advantage. It’s quicker in terms of access. You can reach the aircraft in no more than five minutes. We are also promoting the use of T2 and it shall remain until further notice.

You must be under pressure, given that Abu Dhabi airport is one of the fastest growing in the world?

The challenges will always create pressure in one way or another. However we are working in accordance with the government’s 2030 vision. I think working within the time frame for the masterplan we will be able to reach our objective.

How many passengers is the airport capable of serving every year?

Today we can accommodate over 11 million passengers. We are also achieving 7 to 8 per cent growth in traffic. This is aligned with the overall UAE expected traffic, so we’re moving with the same growth.

Once the expansion plans are done and ready, how many passengers will the airport be able to accommodate?

The current structure of the airport can accommodate well above what I mentioned (11 million). The current facility including the developments that are going to be taking place from now and until 2015 will take us close to 18 million passengers. When the new midfield terminal is operative, we will be able to get up to 20 million passengers in 2016 and up to 40 million in the future.

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