The new Midfield Terminal Complex at Abu Dhabi airport will be open for passengers by 17 July 2017, according to Abu Dhabi Airports Company’ chief executive officer Tony Douglas.

He pinpointed the exact time of the opening at 7.00 in the morning.

Within the first year of operation the terminal’s capacity is expected to reach 30 million passengers. Totalling 700,000 square-metres in size, the terminal is one and half times bigger than Dubai International airport’s Terminal 3 and London Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Douglas confirmed the opening date following the completion of a major milestone for the terminal on 20 October, with the placement of the first buttress for the steel arches that will support the facility’s roof.  According to Douglas, this milestone was reached seven days ahead of the original schedule.

During a site visit, Douglas said that publicly setting construction deadlines is essential for the development of the project.

“Making commitments about milestones is really important as an organisation we will have nowhere to hide because everyone is going to see this, and we will either do it or we won’t. Failure is unacceptable and not an option,” he said.

Construction of the new terminal began last year after the award of the construction packages to a consortium of Arabtec Construction, Turkey’s TAV and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company in June 2012.

Up until the placement of the buttress, the construction work has focused on the basement level works at the terminal. With work now beginning on the ground floor and eventually the roof, the new terminal will now be visible from the nearby motorway.

“What was Abu Dhabi’s better-kept secret will now become a spectator sport,” says Douglas.

The terminal is being built solely for Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways to cater for the airline’s growing passenger volumes. Airlines will codeshare or equity agreements with the airline will also use the terminal. Other airlines will continue to use the existing terminals 1 and 2.

The Midfield terminal is being developed at the same time as Dubai is expanding its airport capacity with the opening of the new Al-Maktoum airport at Dubai World Central close to Jebel Ali port.

Douglas says the Abu Dhabi’s new terminal will not be affected by Dubai’s expansion plans.  

“Given the fact that Etihad don’t fly out of either of those airports [Al Maktoum or Dubai International] the impact will be zero. The facilities we are building are very much for the growth of Etihad. They have done such a fantastic job at growing their business in recent years we simply can’t keep up .We can’t get it completed quick enough.”

The new terminal has also been designed to accommodate the construction of a light rail or metro station as Abu Dhabi develops its public transport systems in the coming years.

“We’ve actively safeguarded in the basement for a station box… We know exactly where it will connect into the building,” he says.

The terminal is already set to be one of the biggest in the world, but Douglas says that three years after the 2017 opening, further expansion plans are likely to be considered, depending on Etihad Airways maintaining the same rate of growth.