x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Formula One VIPs land free-for-all deal at Al Bateen

An executive airport in Abu Dhabi is waiving landing and parking fees for private jets as it prepares for its busiest day of the year.

Al Bateen Executive Airport expects a substantial rise in traffic compared with last year. Andrew Henderson / The National
Al Bateen Executive Airport expects a substantial rise in traffic compared with last year. Andrew Henderson / The National

Abu Dhabi's private airport, Al Bateen, has waived landing and parking fees for the rich and famous flying in to watch Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix.

The airport welcomed about 80 VIPs yesterday ahead of today's practice race.

"For us, the cost of landing is not so much of an issue because we want to get all the drivers and teams into Al Bateen. We want to see these people coming back in the future," said Steve Jones, Al Bateen's general manager.

Al Bateen Executive Airport expects a substantial rise in traffic compared with last year, with 150 movements throughout the week, said Mr Jones. It handled about 100 movements last year.

There will be no red carpet to greet those lucky enough to land at the airport. But that does not mean the VIPs will be subject to the long walk and less luxurious scenery as passengers arriving at larger aviation hubs.

F1 banners and flashy cars will be the first things the visitors see on arrival. They will be greeted by hostesses. The passengers can then choose to relax in the luxurious lounge or proceed to waiting limousines.

The whole process, from touchdown to limo, will take 10 to 12 minutes.

"We see team principals, drivers and high-net worth individuals who are particularly interested in the sport," said Mr Jones.

"If you look at all the top drivers, I am pretty sure we will see a good proportion of them and if you look at the very senior people who own F1, you will see a good proportion of them. But I can't mention any names."

Flight crews will also be able to relax in the new Crew Lounge and Flight Operations facilities, where they can enjoy free drinks and snacks and watch the race on Sunday. The terminal operated as a military air base until 2008, when it was rebranded as an airport for executive jets.

It reported a 36 per cent increase in movements last year and expects a rise of between 30 and 50 per cent this year.

gduncan@thenational.ae