Dubai: Terminal 2 is no longer a poor cousin of Terminals 1 and 3.
Undergoing a massive makeover, Terminal 2, hub for Flydubai and other low-cost airlines, is being completely transformed to bring it up to what officials say is befitting of Dubai’s highest standards.
An exclusive tour of Terminal 2 by XPRESS on August 1 revealed that there’s more to its transformation than just the look and feel. As Peter Moore, head of terminals development at Dubai Airports, said: “The expansion is about doubling the capacity with more efficient solutions.”
Currently, over 50 budget and chartered airlines operate from Terminal 2. Last year, it catered to 6.2 million passengers and these numbers are estimated to double by 2020. Accordingly, 26,381 square metres of new construction area is being added to the terminal, with the existing 31,871 square metres being refurbished. Capacity is being doubled everywhere, be it at the gates, check-in counters, passport control, baggage handling or processing times (see box).
Passengers travelling out of Terminal 2 can already feel the difference. To begin with, a brand new building houses the departures area, even as the arrivals section in the old wing waits to be refurbished. It’s part of a three-phase expansion expected to be completed by mid-2014.
Moore said passengers are no longer subjected to front house screening, meaning they can walk straight to the check-in counters without getting their bags scanned at the entrance. A new inline automatic baggage screening system does the needful once the bags are checked in.
Anmar Bajbouj, Development Manager, Dubai Airports, said nothing is left to chance. “Should there be an emergency, we still have a provision to immediately deploy X-ray screening machines prior to check in,” he said, adding the fail-safe provision divides the lounge into pre and post-screening zones with two glass emergency exit doors swinging into action. The central ticketing counter of the flagship Flydubai can also be accessed from both sides.
Besides Flydubai, which accounts for 50 per cent of Terminal 2’s traffic, there are some 50 other budget airlines and chartered operators that use Terminal 2. Passengers have easy access to the check-in counters whose numbers have gone up from 38 to 52, including four for oversized bags. There are also 12 self check-in kiosks.
Bajbouj said the new check-in area can currently accommodate around 1,600 passengers an hour, up from 800 earlier.
There’s an unmistakable sense of space about the terminal, thanks to the cool, yet utilitarian interiors. Even the toilets and their signs are different. There’s a full-length sketch of a woman in red to denote female toilets, distinct from the blue male sketch at the men’s entrance. “The toilet concept has been redefined. There are no doors anymore, you can just walk in through a snake queue like in the malls,” said Bajbouj.
Besides the obvious changes in the main reception and check-in areas, there’s a big difference in the feel and capacity of other areas as well. The aim at every stage of the departure process is to ensure speedy processing.
The number of departure gates has been upped from six to 12, immigration counters from 10 to 16, plus four e-gates. There are dedicated counters for women with “covered faces” and for those with special needs. At the security check, return tray screening machines have been installed to double the throughput. This is unique to Terminal 2.
Another singular feature is the baggage handling system which can handle 5,400 bags an hour, up for 3,000 earlier. Distinct from other terminals, Terminal 2 has 40 baggage chutes into which bags get automatically allocated on being scanned inline after check-in. “The allocation of the shoots depends on the destination. Each shoot can accommodate baggage of four flights,” said Bajbouj.
He said there are five levels of security inbuilt into the baggage handling system involving screening machines and operator decisions. The final check is at the airside where suspicious bags are opened in the presence of the passenger.
Far from the dull boarding area of the old Terminal 2, the new lounge is airy, bright and posh. Currently, six of the 12 departure gates open from the new wing, the remaining still being accessed from the old building.
Once the expansion is complete, the area will have a massive Dubai Duty Free offering, a sample of which is already in place. There are separate lounges for Marhaba and assisted passengers, besides an inviting juice bar. In fact, the food and beverage offerings throughout the terminal are being upgraded, the plush sit-down coffee shops in the main reception area giving passengers a taste of more to come.
Bajbouj said the new arrivals area, when complete, will have 40 passport control counters, up from the current 16. The number of carousels will also go up from three to six. Passengers won’t need to get their bags scanned, thanks to an inline screening system. There will also be a massive transfer facility and a direct link to the departures area.
Moore said: “Dubai Airports is the busiest international airport after Heathrow. Terminal 2’s expansion is part of Strategic Plan 2020, a commitment we made in 2010 to increase the capacity of Dubai Airports at an investment of $7.8 billion (Dh29 billion).”
He added that at the present rate Dubai Airports can be expected to overtake Heathrow soon. “We expect to overtake Heathrow by 2015. We are seeing a 14 per cent growth in capacity year-on-year as against an industry average of 3-4 per cent.”