Abu Dhabi airport
AUH launched the Smart Travel System in 2016, the first of its kind in the region, to ease passenger processing and enhance the customer experience. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi International Airport on Sunday marked 40 years of its official opening.

The airport was first conceived in 1974, and construction began in 1979. The airport officially opened on January 2, 1982 featuring a circular satellite terminal with a single connection to a semi-circular terminal.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports, said: “Abu Dhabi International Airport has connected the world to Abu Dhabi for 40 years and fuelled the emirate’s emergence as a leading destination for tourism, trade and commerce. It was the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who had the foresight to build the airport and thanks to his vision Abu Dhabi Airports has built a legacy forged by collaboration, innovation and service. It is a legacy that will continue to grow over the next 40 years as it supports the ongoing social and economic development of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the airport’s terminal was expanded to cater for the increase in passenger numbers. Etihad became the national carrier and the home airline in 2003, which was a catalyst for rapid growth and paved the way for the opening of Terminal 2 in September 2005, a second runway (Runway 13L/31R) in 2008 and Terminal 3 in January 2009, boosting the airport’s capacity to 12 million passengers per year.

The airport has also been home to a number of ‘firsts’. In 2014, AUH introduced the first US border preclearance facilities in the Middle East to facilitate the processing of passengers on direct flights for entry into the US before they board their planes. AUH launched the Smart Travel System in 2016, the first of its kind in the region, to ease passenger processing and enhance the customer experience. During the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, AUH was among the first to introduce contactless gates and touchless elevators to complement its wide array of health and safety measures.

Technology will also be front-and-centre at the airport’s new Midfield Terminal Building. Construction of the Midfield Terminal Complex started in 2012 and is now 97 per cent complete. Once opened, the Midfield Terminal Building will accommodate up to 45 million passengers per year whilst providing an exceptional passenger experience for the next 40 years.

“Abu Dhabi International has a proud history of providing world-class infrastructure and top-flight service whilst serving as a catalyst for growth for 40 of our proud nation’s 50 years of achievement,” commented Shareef Al Hashmi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Airports. “As consumer confidence rebounds and traffic gradually recovers, we will continue to explore new technologies, products and ways of doing business that will drive improved sustainability and create industry-leading airport experiences. As proud as we are of our past achievements, we are equally excited about our bright future.”