A structure worthy as the new home for Etihad Airways is two years away from completion, and steady progress is being made at the Dh19.1 billion Abu Dhabi Airports Midfield Terminal complex.
A tour inside the evolving space-age structure offered a glimpse of what awaits arrivals when the airport opens in 2019.
Four themed areas will dominate the 742,000 square metres, with one each pointing in the direction of the ocean, city, oasis and desert.
The supersized structure’s cross-shaped design is expecting to reduce transit times between check-in and departure gates.
Developers insist they are leading the race towards making Abu Dhabi a top destination for luxury travel, with the Midfield Terminal Complex central to welcoming a new age of tourism.
“The size of this airport is huge,” said chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports, Abdul Majeed Al Khoori.
“According to the schedule, it will be ready for operation in 2019 and we are confident our contractor and teams will deliver.
“This building will serve 84 million passengers a year. This is a huge number, and once completed passengers will see an iconic structure.
“Abu Dhabi airport is the future and we aim to be number one.”
The latest immigration controls and artificial intelligence will help process 11,000 passengers an hour, with luggage technology handling about 19,200 bags per hour from conveyors stretching across more than 28 km.
Records will be broken when the superstructure finally opens as it becomes the largest airport terminal under one roof on the planet.
The terminal will also have the world’s longest indoor arch at 180 metres long, 52 metres high and weighing 1,000 metric tonnes.
Design is another key factor behind the proposed success of the new terminal.
American architects Kohn Pedersen Fox have created a wave-like roof giving the impression of rolling desert dunes, whilst huge sweeping beams dominate the terminal’s internal structure.
As the capital gateway, the terminal building is raised above street level offering the appearance of sitting on its own plateau, silhouetted against the sky.
A 50-metre high departure hall will be largely column free, giving a perception of an outdoor space with supporting arches visually separated from the roof.
“The overall design of the structure with the beautiful curves resembles the general characteristics of the land, and the desert sand dunes,” said Sulaiman Al Siksek, acting chief programme officer at Abu Dhabi Airports.
“To enhance the overall theme and give a sense of place, each pier is pointing in the direction of its theme, whether that be sea, oasis, city or desert.
“Each will have its own colours and design to help travelers navigate around the airport.”
The majority of retail, food and beverage will be found in the central processing area, with each ‘pier’ having further retail outlets.
Different materials are used in each area, with arches and pavilions helping develop each theme.
“The shape of the building itself helps minimize travel times within the airport, for arriving and departing passengers,” said Mr Al Siksek.
“This makes it very convenient.”
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The airport was due to be operational this year, but the project was delayed as a result of changes made to the interior to improve passenger experience.
Abu Dhabi Airports hope it will compete with the best in the world for customer satisfaction.
According to consumer aviation website Skytrax, Singapore Changi International Airport remains the world’s best, an accolade it has won in five consecutive years at the World Airport Awards.
Ratings are built on the experiences of close to 14 million flyers, from 105 countries with more than 550 airport surveyed.
Performance indicators include facility comfort, location of bathrooms and language skills of airport staff.
Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Incheon International in South Korea, Munich and Hong Kong make up the top five on the Skytrax list.
As Abu Dhabi bids to become a regional centre for culture and art, passengers arriving at the new terminal will be greeted with art and exhibits to offer a taste of what the emirate has to offer.
There will also be a nod to Emirati heritage and culture, with other displays planned to showcase the nation’s proud past.
“This terminal is at the heart of Abu Dhabi,” said Mr Al Khoori.
“If you pass by on the road you can see what is happening. It is very obvious.
“Today we are number one in the Middle East for customer service, we want to be number one in the world.”