Etihad Airways has started transferring major routes to the new Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi International Airport, with flights including London, Bangkok, Manchester and Paris departing from there today. The flights mark the second phase of a five-stage plan to move most of the airline's network to the Dh1.1 billion (US$300 million) terminal, making room for Etihad's expansion after outgrowing Terminal 1. Etihad and its Dubai-based competitor, Emirates Airline, are forging ahead with fleet expansion even as they join the global trend of offering discounts and promotions to deal with slowing demand for air travel. Dubai airport opened its own Terminal 3 in October, bringing overall capacity to 60 million passengers a year. The gradual transfer at Abu Dhabi airport follows three months of testing baggage systems and other processes at the terminal. Terminal 3 lifts the capacity of the airport from seven million to 12 million passengers a year, and features eight new contact gates located next to Terminal 1. "Terminal 1 has served us well, but Terminal 3 is needed for Etihad's growth, and this now takes us nicely to the development of the Midfield Terminal [which will be completed] from 2012," said Iain Burns, the vice president of corporate communications at Etihad Airways. The Midfield Terminal is the centrepiece of a Dh25bn plan to revitalise the airport and make Abu Dhabi a global centre for air travel. It will initially handle 20 million passengers a year. Mr Burns said that to prevent any confusion, the airline was calling customers booked for flights set to depart from Terminal 3, and Abu Dhabi Airports Company had contracted a company to supply customer service staff along the kerbside and in car parks to meet and direct customers. But some flights, including those bound for Lahore and Islamabad, will remain at Terminal 1. The first phase for moving to the new terminal began on Feb 2 with flights to Almaty, Minsk, Moscow, Singapore, Manila and Brisbane. Today's transfers represent a much more serious test for Terminal 3, with three flights a day departing for London, and two a day for Bangkok. On March 9, a third set of flights will be moved including those to Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Milan, Munich, Sydney and Toronto. Phase four will take place on March 16 for departures to Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat and Riyadh. The final stage is scheduled for March 23 for Beijing, Delhi, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Mumbai flights. Etihad plans to double its number of destinations to 100 by 2020 and placed an order for up to 205 new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing last July. This year it will receive 11 new aircraft and has announced five new destinations to date including Melbourne, Athens, Istanbul, Chicago and Lagos. email@example.com
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