The opening of Abu Dhabi’s long-awaited Dh19.1 billion Midfield Terminal has moved a step closer.
Almost 800 volunteers and two Etihad jets put the building through its paces as part of an operational test on June 30 to assess how ready the building is for real passengers.
From 9.30am, the volunteers streamed through the terminal. They passed through security, checked baggage and boarded the aircraft as if they were regular passengers. The two jets – an Airbus A330-200 and A330-300 – simulated a full 80-minute turnaround on the aircraft, including loading, refueling and safety checks.
The performance of immigration desks, security, baggage-handling and customs was also assessed.
News of the test was revealed on Sunday, but no official opening date for Midfield Terminal was given. Bryan Thompson, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports, did not elaborate on predictions that the terminal would open later this year, but said it would happen "soon". It was originally scheduled to open in 2017.
“Trials are an important step in the delivery of the project, as we safely and securely assess the terminal’s operational capacities and processes,” he said regarding last month's tests.
Through conducting trials of this scale and fully assessing the results therein, we will be able to make sure that passengers enjoy an efficient and smooth journey ... from the very first day of operation.”
Mr Thompson also thanked the volunteers who made the test possible.
“The [Midfield Terminal] is a magnificent piece of engineering and its distinctive architectural profile will soon be synonymous with the incredible city of Abu Dhabi,” he said.
When open, Midfield Terminal is designed to process 8,500 people an hour, tens of millions of passengers a year and a baggage-handling system that can process about half a million bags a day.
It will also increase the capacity of the airport to more than 45 million passengers a year. It serves about 20 million a year currently.
The long-awaited opening also comes as Etihad, the UAE’s national airline, continues its turnaround plan to recover from losses sustained since 2016.
In March, Mr Thompson said the terminal was “on plan” but there was no rush to move as Etihad was still in the middle of this plan. He also said he wanted to increase the airport’s point-to-point traffic.
"We don’t want to let Abu Dhabi down when we open Midfield. We will make sure we’re 100 per cent ready at the time of the opening, for ourselves and the airline to present Abu Dhabi in the best light," he said. "It is not just the airport's reputation that’s at stake, so we want to do this right."
The terminal is designed with sweeping curves in an X-shape and spans 742,000 square metres. Larger plans for the airport include more hotels, shops and an aviation district in Al Falah.