By Shane McGinley
Airports authority says it has already 'significantly' increased its current plans as a result of carrier’s rapid growth
Abu Dhabi Airports has “significantly” increased its development plans at the under construction $3bn Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) and is in the process of planning further expansion of facilities in a bid to keep pace with growth by flag carrier Etihad Airways, CEO Tony Douglas confirmed in an interview.
“Etihad have grown by about 30 percent in the last two years in terms of their forecasts and that is 30 percent of a reasonably sized number. In the Dubai Airshow, as well as Emirates and Qatar Airways, it placed the largest civil aviation order in memory,” Douglas said, adding that plans for the new terminal had increased “significantly” since they were first drawn up in 2012.
When MTB was conceived, it was designed so that all 44 plus airlines would be able to operate from it, but Douglas said 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.
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 11.5m 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.
Douglas confirmed that it was likely that as Etihad’s growth continues on such a fast pace, discussions were already underway for future expansion of facilities at the MTB and Abu Dhabi International Airport.
“Yes, 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,” Douglas said.
When unveiled in 2017, the 700,000 square metre MIB will be the largest singular 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.
Douglas revealed that expansion plans are also underway at the company’s other regional airports.
“Al Ain International Airport is a very important airport for us, we have an incredible runway. The terminal building we are looking to do a fundamental facelift on the external and internal fit-out. We are working through different design options and looking at key stakeholders and realistically that is something you will see play out in the near future.”
At Al Bateen Executive Airport, which Douglas described as the only dedicated executive jet facility in the whole of the Middle Eastern region, work is also being planned. “We have put in quite of bit of investment into enhancing the facilities for the VVIP end of the travel market... Between now and the end of the next Airshow you will see a number of interesting changing in how VVIP terminal facilities and ancillary services and we have seen a big uptake in the executive jet usage for Al Bateen.”
At the two remaining airports – Delma Island Airport and Sir Bani Yas Island Airport – Douglas said he is also looking at improvements in order to help expand the tourist potential of the islands.