Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) is preparing to put out for tender bids on the next major contract on the vast Midfield Terminal after completing its first big construction milestone this week.
Builders have poured the first structural concrete slab in its 700,000 square metre basement as work gathers pace on the terminal, which is due to be completed by the third quarter of 2017.
The new terminal, with an initial capacity of 30 million passengers, has also been designed to accommodate both a high-speed rail link and metro connection in the future, it has emerged.
"This will be the gateway to the capital," said Tony Douglas, Adac's chief executive, in an interview in Abu Dhabi yesterday. "It will define what airports of the future will look like."
The contractors - Arabtec, TAV and CCC - won the main Dh10.8 billion order to construct the terminal building last June.
The airfield package comprising taxiways and hardstands was awarded to India's Larsen & Toubro. Now Adac is preparing to procure a third major construction package to deliver a huge car park building.
"It will be the biggest multideck car park in Abu Dhabi by some order," said Mr Douglas, who joined Adac in March after delivering the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone as the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports Company.
"We are in the final phases of defining it from a design point of view. Then we will go out to the market with that package."
It is part of Dh35.8bn in airport-related construction planned in the emirate under the Government's Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. The Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates-designed terminal will be the largest building in the capital. Its central space is big enough to accommodate three full-sized football pitches.
"Abu Dhabi Airports Company is looking ahead to an exciting new era of growth, focusing on increasing traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport driven by Etihad Airways' accelerated growth," said Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Adac's chairman.
More than 7,500 construction workers are already employed on the site.
That number will rise to more than 11,000 at peak. Some 2,000 engineers, designers and other support staff are also engaged in delivering the project.
The new terminal will include about 27,800 square metres of retail and food and beverage outlets - or about the size of Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, Adac said. The shops would be set around an 8,400 sq metre indoor park.
The terminal comprises 65 gates, including eight big enough to handle A380 superjumbos. The terminal building will have 156 check-in counters and 48 self-service kiosks.
The three big Arabian Gulf aviation hubs of Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi are investing billions of dollars in airport expansion projects as they draw long-haul traffic away from more established European airports such as London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol.
Data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) released yesterday showed Middle East carriers grew premium traffic from Europe by more than 11 per cent in April compared with a year earlier.
"Overall, Middle East airlines grew their premium traffic much faster than in the rest of the world," said Hussein Dabbas, Iata's regional vice president.
Abu Dhabi International Airport recorded record passenger numbers last year, rising by almost 19 per cent to 14.7 million.
That was driven mainly by the rapid expansion of Etihad, which has adopted a strategy of growth through so-called "equity alliances" that have enabled the carrier to buy into airlines such as Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Air Seychelles and Virgin Australia.
This week the carrier disclosed it had struck an initial agreement with Jat Airways, the loss-making Serbian airline that could lead to Etihad's latest equity alliance.
"As we have demonstrated with our minority equity investments in other airlines, significant ongoing savings can be achieved through joint initiatives, said James Hogan, the Etihad chief executive.