Dubai: The Abu Dhabi Government approved the construction of the new Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC), part of the $6.8 billion redevelopment of the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The cost of the MTC project is an estimated $3.2 billion (Dh11.7 billion). Earlier, six consortia including Al Habtoor-Murray & Roberts, Bechtel-Al Jaber, Hyundai Engineering & Construction-Kumho, Larsen & Toubro-NPC, Samsung-ACC and TAV-CCC have submitted bids for the project that will drastically increase passenger handling capacity at the UAE capital's main aviation gateway.

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) said it has received approval from the Executive Council for the construction of the MTC which is destined to become the primary gateway for airlines operating to Abu Dhabi and the future home of Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE.

"The Midfield Terminal Building, which is expected to go live in the first half of 2017, is the key component of the MTC development program at the airport and it will contribute to the long-term success of the aviation sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," a statement said.

The MTC will be located between the airport's two runways, which also gives the terminal its name. This location allows for the quickest possible journey from runway to stand, resulting in a smoother experience for the Terminal's passengers.

"The MTC's terminal building will be the largest in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and one of the region's most architecturally impressive structures. It will be between 630,000 and 702,369 square metres in size, and visible from more than 1.5km away. The central space of the terminal building could hold three full-sized football pitches and features a ceiling 52m tall at its highest point," according to its website.

The complex will include 20,000-25,000 square metres of retail and food and beverage outlets, roughly equivalent to the current size of Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. These are set around an 8,400 square metres indoor park, another first for the region, which will host Mediterranean plants and features at its centre, and desert landscapes at its edge.

Associated support buildings take up an additional 800,000 square metres, and will include access to 16-20 aircraft parking stands

Adac chairman, Khalifa Al Mazrouei, said: "The approval of the Executive Council on the capacity expansion program for Abu Dhabi International Airport confirms Abu Dhabi's commitment to deliver a World Class airport for the emirate that will be on a par with the best international airports in the world.

"This development represents one of the largest investments by the Government to deliver the needed infrastructure, in line with Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, that will cater to the growth of the aviation sector in the region and confirms Abu Dhabi's strong position in the global air transportation network. Adac looks forward to appointing the Midfield Terminal Building contractors and creating this key infrastructure asset for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi."

Abu Dhabi International Airport continues to be one of the fastest growing airports in the world, with record growth rates of 19.7 per cent over the last five years, spurred by the rapid development of its hub airline, Etihad Airways and the increasing attraction of Abu Dhabi as a destination for business and leisure. The airport currently handles in excess of 12 million passengers per year and growth over the next 20 years is forecast to be robust, requiring additional facilities to accommodate the increased traffic demand.

"High oil prices and sustained government support have turned a few GCC airlines into global contenders; namely Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad. These governments are pursuing, with notable success, a global aviation hub model whereby millions of passengers transit through the airport on their way to their final destinations," M.R. Raghu, head of Research at Kuwait-based research organisation Markaz, said in a recent report.

The 700,000-square-metre terminal building is one of the most crucial projects to be undertaken in the UAE and will initially handle 27-30 million passengers per year. Tenders for the construction of the terminal were received in November 2011 and the anticipated contract award represents the next key milestone for the Emirate in its drive to develop a world-class air transportation hub.

Following the completion of extensive site preparation, piling and foundation works in 2010 and 2011, construction of the Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) is planned to commence during the 2nd quarter of 2012.

Adac is currently evaluating tenders for the appointment of a general contractor for MTB and an award will be announced in due course. Further works are currently being prepared or are in process for the airfield construction, deep utilities and services and other crucial support facilities.

The construction of the new terminal is the next major stage in the overall development of Abu Dhabi International Airport. Since the expansion program was initiated in 2006, a new 60m wide, 4,100m long runway was completed in 2008, facilitating the full operation of next generation Code F A-380 aircraft.

Terminal 3, currently home to Etihad Airways, was opened in 2008 with a floor area of 70,000 sq m and 33 check-in counters.

In 2011, a new 110m high air traffic control complex was commissioned, the highest in the region, and it includes advanced air traffic control systems together with on-site training facilities.

Adac is a public joint-stock company wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi Government. It was incorporated by Amiri Decree number 5, issued on 4 March 2006, to spearhead the development of the Emirate's aviation infrastructure.

At its inception, in 2006, Adac assumed the management roles of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain International Airports and then took over management roles for three more airports and added six new subsidiaries to provide aviation related services that would support the delivery of Adac's vision.