A multi-billion dollar construction project on a new airport terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport is finally nearing completion and authorities now claim the Midfield Terminal Complex (or MTC) will open by the end of 2019. In the last few weeks, officials held the first full-scale operational readiness test in preparation for moving the existing airport operation from existing terminals to their new home as finishing touches on the Midfield Terminal continue apace.
The MTC will replace the airport’s existing crowded terminal buildings that were outgrown by Abu Dhabi’s rapid growth long ago. The building has been designed to serve as many as 84 million people per year, with a floor space of over 742,000 square metres. The Duty Free shops and restaurants alone will take up 28,000 square metres and premium lounges will cover a whopping 30,000 square metres.
But despite its size, the MTC has been designed to be easy to navigate – especially for the many passengers who are simply connecting through Abu Dhabi. In fact, the designers claim the minimum connecting time for international passengers will be just 45 minutes from gate to gate.
In preparation for the grand opening which is slated for later this year, authorities have held their first full-scale passenger trials at the terminal. At the end of June, over 800 volunteers helped put the terminal through its paces and pretended to be passengers who had either just arrived or were departing from the airport.
Etihad Airways loaned two widebody aircraft for the test – an Airbus A330-200 and an A330-300 – to see whether the terminal was ready for a full-blown 80-minute turnaround which included refuelling, catering, cleaning and of course, boarding.
There’s no word on how well the first trial went but Bryan Thompson, who is the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports said the results would be fully assessed so that they were ready for the first real passengers to set foot in the terminal.
- The terminal can handle 8,500 passengers per hour
- Almost half a million bags a day can be handled by the baggage handling system
- The building features the worlds largest indoor arch – which measures 180 metres long and 52 metres high
- There will be 65 aircraft gates, eight of which can handle A380 flights
- Meant to be finished in 2017 but opening date quietly pushed back by two years
The MTC is certainly impressive but you do have to wonder whether it’s already outdated. After all, Abu Dhabi’s home airline, Etihad Airways has already significantly altered its growth ambitions – Last year, Etihad Airways handled 17.8 million passengers, while AUH itself claims to have handled 24 million passengers in 2016 (the last year for which figures are available).
Obviously, Abu Dhabi is building for the future but a surplus of 60 million makes you wonder whether they slightly overstretched. Either way, this will be a fantastic and long overdue improvement on the ageing infrastructure that passengers currently have to struggle through.