Capital to boost airport capacity

ADAC plans to boost the capacity of the capital's airport from its current 12 million passengers annually to 15 million to cope with a delay in the opening of a new terminal.

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) plans to boost the capacity of the capital's airport from its current 12 million passengers annually to 15 million to cope with a delay in the opening of a new terminal. The efforts at Abu Dhabi International Airport will help the emirate continue its push into aviation and tourism, even as it faces a three-year delay for the airport's Dh25 billion (US$6.81bn) Midfield Terminal, now scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2015. Aviation and tourism were identified as major drivers of economic growth under Abu Dhabi's 2030 Plan.

"From now until the new terminal opens, we will continuously enhance the airport, from all aspects," said Ahmed al Haddabi, the senior vice president of airport operations at ADAC. The airport's capacity is being increased to draw new carriers to the capital and to stay a step ahead of the growth of Etihad Airways, which is based in Abu Dhabi and plans to triple its fleet to more than 150 aircraft in the next decade.

About 45 international airlines serve Abu Dhabi, connecting it with 80 destinations. ADAC recently scored coups when AirAsia X of Malaysia chose Abu Dhabi as its Middle East destination and Air France announced it would begin serving the UAE capital from Paris. However, a key factor in the airport expansion is Etihad's commitment to purchasing new aeroplanes, Mr al Haddabi said. The airport upgrades should sustain the airline's rise in passenger numbers until the Midfield Terminal opens. The new terminal will be able to handle more than 20 million passengers a year, Mr al Haddabi said.

Travel and tourism officials said at a news conference yesterday that Abu Dhabi would also benefit by its selection as the host city for the World Route Development Forum in September, 2012. The conference is expected to bring in as many as 4,000 professionals from airports, airlines and travel authorities worldwide. "This is one of the most important milestones that can happen to an airport," said George Karamanos, the vice president of corporate marketing and communications at ADAC.

Ahmed Hussein, the deputy director general of tourism operations at the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said the selection was a "fantastic vote of confidence" and validated the emirate's investments in facilities for the exhibitions and meetings trade. Abu Dhabi International Airport's passenger capacity was increased to 12 million with the opening of the Dh1bn Terminal 3, a project built by Al Habtoor Engineering of the UAE and Murray and Roberts of South Africa.

The next major project to reach completion should be a 110-metre air traffic control tower, slated to be finished in the second half of this year. Official traffic figures for last year should be released later this week, but the figure is about 10 million, Mr al Haddabi said. That was in line with growth projections of 7 to 8 per cent per year. The enhancements may include additional parking for vehicles and aircraft, upgrading the features of the existing terminals, and expanding the self-service check-in kiosks, which all increase the airport's ability to process departing passengers.

ADAC has two kiosks in operation, with KLM as its first participating airline. It expects to add more kiosks as more airlines participate.