Dubai Airports' CEO, Paul Griffiths, takes us on a tour of the new terminal at the world's fastest growing airport.
Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International boasts some impressive figures, with the entire project cost estimated at US$4.5 billion. Once fully operational, T3, Concourse 2 and Concourse 3 will have a passenger handling capacity of 43 million and the complex will have a total of 23 A380 contact gates.
Innovative design and a whole range of new facilities at the terminal allow Dubai International to place itself as one of the best airports in the world.
When it comes to the design of T3, we have totally rewritten the book ... we are integrated with the future success of Dubai.
"When it comes to the design of T3, we have totally rewritten the book," explains Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. "We are so integrated with the future success of Dubai, we recognise that if we fail to deliver the passenger capacity required, this could have a huge impact on the growth of the economy in the region."
By the end of the year Dubai International estimates it will handle 40 million passengers. T3 has the capacity to handle 20 million passengers and once Concourse 3 opens in 2009, capacity figures will be boosted by a further 15 million. But, although a huge project, Griffiths admits T3 is just one of a number of developments needed to deliver the growth and expansion created by the airlines.
Our biggest challenge is providing enough aircraft parking stands and we have [started] a project to develop those numbers over the next few years. The visionary difference between here in Dubai and other places is that the investment is available and we are taking opportunities."
It is clear that the global economic downturn, which has been affecting the aviation industry, has not hit the Middle East region, although Dubai Airports' CEO points out that it is always an area of concern.
The economic situation does worry us, but we know that growth is strong. You could argue that this region will become stronger as people come here to invest money and develop trade, so we could ironically see a growth in traffic."
By 2011, the airport's facilities combined will be able to cope with 75 million passengers per year and even prior to its official opening on 14th October, T3 was handling passengers and operating flights. "This is a hugely complex facility and not everything will work 100% perfectly, but we have actually been operating some flights from the building already. Flights on day one all departed early so this is a good indication for the future."
Griffiths points out that the systematic opening of the terminal will help to smooth out any problems and maintain a high level of customer service. "The reason we have chosen the transition plan is so that we can gradually build up to full strength and solve any problems along the way. It is so vast in size and customers are not familiar with the building, so we have chosen to avoid the big bang approach."
The departures hall adopts a fuss-free approach despite its size being equivalent to 94 football fields. It occupies six floors with a total of 158 check-in counters. Sixty self-service kiosks can be used by passengers both with and without baggage.
"Self-service check-in also deals with checked luggage as well," explains Griffiths, "and we have one of the most sophisticated baggage screening systems in the world." Currently, the airport has not adopted RFID technology for baggage tracking but its future use has not been ruled out.
Our biggest challenge is providing enough aircraft parking stands and we have [started] a project to develop those.
"At the moment RFID is not something we need to use because we have other technologies that do the same job. The technologies are not necessarily better but they are just as effective," Griffiths explains.
Concourse 2 is accessed via four ‘Sky Trains' (elevators) and covers an area equivalent to 120 football fields. It houses two food courts, accommodating 14 restaurants and also includes a hotel, which has both four and five star rooms and suites, as well as a hotel, fitness club and health spa. The retail area covers 10,700m2 and includes an extensive gold and jewellery section.
According to Griffiths, the quality of the retail on offer is hugely improved from the other two terminals and the layout is capacious. Natural light fills the duty free area and a water feature is set into the centre of the concourse amid greenery, which, says Griffiths creates a "relaxing ambience."
Arriving passengers collect their baggage from one of 14 carousels. The baggage handling system is the largest and deepest system in the world as T3 is underground. The conveyor belts can handle 15,000 items of baggage per hour and 8000 bags per hour at check-in.
By December, all Emirates' flights will check-in at T3. The new regional low-cost airline, FlyDubai will begin its operations from the terminal, but will migrate to Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Jebel Ali, although Griffiths is unable to confirm an exact date. "We expect to see some airlines operating out of Dubai World Central before the end of next year.
As Dubai International gets busier some airlines may decide they would like to move to DWC, but until we have a reliable opening date we cannot have discussions with the airlines."
Griffiths points out that it will be a long time until DWC is fully operational, so it is important to focus on the current airport. "The investment and projects we have planned for Dubai International is still enormous, despite the progress of DWC at Jebel Ali. We have earmarked billions of dollars of investment for Dubai International and we want to remain the biggest and best airport in the region.
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