Terminal closer to take-off

Abu Dhabi Airports Company has invited construction companies to bid on a contract for the midfield terminal building.

Taxis wait in a queue in front of the Terminal 1 at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
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Abu Dhabi International Airport has moved closer to starting construction on a long-delayed, multibillion-dollar terminal building.

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has released tender documents for a "midfield terminal", designed to become the home of Etihad Airways and more than 50 other airlines serving the airport later this decade.

The development is a major milestone for the airports company, which is tasked with rolling out the infrastructure needed to continue expanding the UAE capital's aviation industry. The project will also become one of the key construction contracts in the UAE following a slowdown of new building projects after the global downturn.

The midfield terminal building (MTB) has been in the planning stages for the past five years and issued an earlier tender, in 2008, only to later withdraw it. The building was then the subject of a thorough review enacted by the management of ADAC.

The 2008 tender was structured as a public-private partnership, in which contractors would shoulder some of the costs and risk of the project in return for a share of the operating revenues over the terminal's lifespan.

But following the due diligence study, ADAC officials said the new tender was structured as a traditional construction contract. "Abu Dhabi Airports Company is pleased to announce the release of the MTB tender," said Khalifa al Mazrouei, the chairman of ADAC.

The main terminal building will be 700,000 square metres and have an initial capacity of between 27 million and 30 million passengers a year.

The building will be one of the world's largest and will require an estimated 667,000 cubic metres of concrete.

It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of London in the shape of an "X". The central space of the terminal building could hold three full-sized football pitches and features a ceiling 52 metres high at one point.

The entire MTB project is estimated to cost between Dh20 billion (US$5.44bn) and Dh30bn, and is scheduled for completion by 2016.

It will accommodate 156 check-in counters, up to 65 boarding gates for aircraft as large as the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and up to eight airline lounges.

It will also feature a three-star transit hotel inside the complex with 163 rooms, an arrivals hotel within the grounds of the airport and a luxury hotel in the adjacent business park, ADAC said.

Piling works for the building have been completed, with a total of 7,425 piles, and the grading works for the east midfield are under way.

Other elements of the airports expansion include an already completed control tower and a second runway.

In the meantime, ADAC is planning a number of enhancements to create additional capacity to handle the growth of Etihad Airways, one of the world's fastest-growing carriers.

The company said in November it would spend Dh500 million to raise passenger handling capability at the airport by 75 per cent over the next two years.

"Etihad's growth has put enormous pressure on Abu Dhabi International Airport," Chris Youlten, the vice president of airport and network operations at Etihad, said last year.

"Before the Midfield opens we will manage, but the ribbon-cutting ceremony can't come early enough."