Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is rarely out of the headlines these days as it juggles deals in Europe, Australia and India and launches routes to the four corners of the globe. The UAE flag-carrier earlier this year announced a third consecutive year of profit, with net profit surging 48 percent to $62m in 2013. Passenger numbers rose 12 percent to 11.5 million and even in the first quarter of this year 14 percent more passengers travelled with the carrier, more than double the 5.8 percent global growth rate predicted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for 2014.
As a result, Etihad’s Abu Dhabi airport hub is also thriving, with 15 percent more passengers moving through the facility in the first three months of the year.
The man tasked with keeping up with James Hogan’s Etihad global masterplan and making it a reality on the ground is Tony Douglas, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC). “Our forecast going forward with Etihad is the greatest gift you could ever dream of,” Douglas says enthusiastically.
While Etihad looks to bring Abu Dhabi to the world, Douglas is hard at work making sure Abu Dhabi Airports’ $3bn Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) is kept on target and ready to open at 7am on 17 July 2017. In fact the Abu Dhabi carrier’s continued growth means that he constantly has to review his plans to keep pace.
When the MTB was initially conceived, it was designed so that all 44-plus airlines would be able to operate from it, but Douglas says Etihad’s rapid growth means that the current south-side Terminal One and Terminal Three will still be operational when the MTB opens in 2017.
“Etihad has grown by about 30 percent in the last two years in terms of its forecasts and that is 30 percent of a reasonably sized number. At the Dubai Airshow, as well as Emirates and Qatar Airways, it placed the largest civil aviation order in memory.
“I would say therefore that when this incredible terminal opens that it will not be the end of the development and we will have to move very quickly on to the next phase to keep pace with Etihad. All the numbers that we observe, the forecasts for growth, and the evidence from the industry in this region support that,” he adds, reporting that they have already “significantly” increased their capacity plans at MTB to cater to this ongoing, fast-paced growth.
MTB is the jewel in Abu Dhabi Airports’ crown and when complete, at 700,000 sq m, it will be the largest single building in Abu Dhabi and is expected to be able to cater to up to 30 million passengers a year. To put that into perspective, Abu Dhabi International is likely to operate around 18 million passengers this year, based on the 4.5 million carried in the first quarter and which is up significantly on the 5.2 million carried in the same period in 2006.
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