Terminal A has the capacity to service 11,000 passengers per hour. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi International Airport expects to achieve double-digit growth in passenger numbers at the end of its first full year of operations in Terminal A, according to Elena Sorlini, Managing Director and Interim CEO

With a robust Q4 and winter season performance, the airport aims to close this year with 22 million passengers - a significant increase from 15.9 million in 2022. Terminal A, operational since November 1, elevates the hub’s passenger capacity to 45 million annually.

Senior airport executives are also exploring additional expansion within the airport – including a ‘satellite’ facility - and updating the airport masterplan for the future.

Regarding passenger numbers, the airport has already achieved 20 per cent growth this winter season. “Our winter season exhibits a 20 per cent growth compared to what we were experiencing at the older terminal during the summer,” Elena told Gulf News during a media tour of the airport’s new Terminal A.

Terminal A has 742,000 square metres of built-up area, making it one of the world's largest airport terminals Image Credit: Abu Dhabi Airports

“Year-to-date, we are going 50 per cent on top of what was there last year - 50 per cent is humongous on the back of the recovery after the pandemic,” said Elena.

Abu Dhabi International Airport's - to be renamed Zayed International Airport in February - traffic jumped 29.3 per cent annually in the third quarter of 2023. About six million passengers had used the airport from July to September.

Despite the ongoing geopolitical situation, Elena expressed confidence in the airport’s performance, stating, “At this stage, it doesn’t appear that we have been significantly impacted.”

Shifting US Customs pre-clearance facility
The US Customs and Border Protection Pre-clearance facility (allowing passengers to bypass inspection lines upon arrival in the US) at Terminal 1 will be moved to Terminal A's Pier C in Q3-2024.

Abu Dhabi International is the only airport to offer this service in the Middle East.

Phase 2: Satellite facility

Plans are already underway for building a new ‘satellite’ facility in the Eastern area of the airport, revealed Sulaiman Daoud Al Siksek, the Chief Programs Officer at Abu Dhabi International Airport. “During the time of construction, we had to future proof this facility to allow a seamless connectivity between Terminal A and a future satellite which would be (located) towards the East (area of the airport),” said Al Sisek.

The X-shaped building design of the airport features four themed Piers (A, B, C, and D), similar to airport concourses. Each pier is inspired by Abu Dhabi’s natural landscapes of desert, sea, city and oasis.

“Part of our masterplan is to ensure we deliver capacity ahead of demand," said Al Sisek. "We are already in the early plans for the future satellite facility, which is an expansion to the Terminal A facility. The size of that facility is currently being studied to see how many contact gates it would need and what other facilities are going to be in it.” 

“When we conceptualised and constructed the terminal, we took steps to future-proof it, anticipating the significant double-digit growth we are experiencing. We incorporated an automated people mover and a tunnel to connect Terminal A with the upcoming expansion. These elements are already in place.

“We built it promptly to avoid operational disruptions, considering the airport getting increasingly busy. The focus now is on understanding the dimensions of the new building, tentatively named the ‘Satellite’.” (A 138-room hotel facility is also being fit out at the new terminal.)

Passengers can move from kerb to gate in 12 minutes at the new Terminal, said authorities Image Credit: Supplied

British Airways by April

Earlier this month, all 28 international airlines operating from Abu Dhabi International Airport moved their operations to the new Terminal A.

Natalie Jongma, Head of Aviation Development, said, “We expect British Airways to start operating on April 20 next year, with a daily flight to London Heathrow.”

Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad, which operates out of the Abu Dhabi International hub, is looking at doubling its fleet by 2030. “If you consider our base carrier alone, their vision looks at doubling their fleet from 80 to 160 aircraft as early as 2030," said Natalie. "I think that sets the tone for us.”