If you've flown through Abu Dhabi lately with Virgin Australia or Etihad, you may have spotted the airport's Midfield Terminal Building starting to take shape.
Taking the reins as Etihad's future home when it opens in Q3 2017, the new terminal will handle up to 30 million passengers each year, 19,200 checked bags per hour and offer minimum connection times of just 45 minutes.
But building a monstrous terminal from scratch is no easy task, as Australian Business Traveller witnessed on a behind-the-scenes tarmac tour of the airport's construction site.
Situated between two active runways at an otherwise-functioning international airport, safety is at the front of everybody's minds – whether you're operating a small crane...
... or driving workers and journalists from place to place on the bus.
Incredibly, the workers have already achieved over 65 million man-hours on the project without a single lost-time injury – that's the equivalent of one full-time Aussie employee working 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, for almost 34,000 years without incident (if we could live that long!).
With the customary safety briefing out of the way, we go for a ride to check-out the future terminal itself.
Once opened to the public, passengers will arrive by car on elevated roadways...
... before proceeding to one of 156 check-in desks or 48 self-check kiosks, and then into one of eight airline lounges.
Travellers stuck down the back without lounge access can grab a bite to eat or indulge in a little duty-free shopping, with 28,000 square metres of the terminal dedicated to retail stores and food and beverage outlets.
Designed in an 'X' shape, a network of 46 travellators will whisk passengers from one pier to the next.
Check-in and immigration formalities take place in the centre of the four piers – in the middle of the 'X', if you will – after which it takes roughly 15 minutes to walk to the furthest gate if you're avoiding the travellator.
Those travellators become a necessity for connecting passengers, as a flight arriving at the far end of one pier with an onward flight at the opposite end of the terminal naturally means a walking time of up to 30 minutes from gate to gate.
But before any travellers can use the airport, they'll need somewhere for the aircraft to park. Some of the aerobridge stands are beginning to take shape...
... while others aren't yet connected to the terminal.
All up, Midfield will house 65 aerobridge gates – 14 of which will be A380-capable – plus a further 14 remote stands for use during peak times.
The terminal's central location also slashes the time spent taxiing from the gate to the runway, with a just-arrived Egyptair flight a stone's throw from the construction site.
The existing and iconic air traffic control tower will remain, as will the current terminal – allowing the airport to handle a whopping 50 million passengers each and every year.
There's still plenty of work to be done at Midfield over the next 2.5 years, to take the terminal from this...
... to the largest building in Abu Dhabi and an airport ready for the growing number of passengers visiting and connecting through the Emirate.
Curious to see more? Watch this four-minute video:
Stay behind the scenes:
- Keeping an airline flying: inside Emirates' Network Control Centre
- The inner workings of the Airbus A380 factory...
- Designing your own Boeing 787 at the Dreamliner Gallery
- Fires, escape slides and champagne: training Emirates' cabin crew
- Photos: the Airbus A380's secret hangout zone for cabin crew
- Photo tour: inside Boeing's 787 Dreamliner factory
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Etihad and Abu Dhabi Airports.
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