Abu Dhabi airport Terminal 1’s giant leap forward …
Renovating a major international airport is a bit like painting a particularly long suspension bridge. By the time the last lick of paint has been applied at one end, the other end of the bridge is starting to show wear and tear. Similarly, when Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) unveiled its $1billion state-of-the-art Terminal 3 as a base for fast-growing Etihad Airways in 2009, the airport’s original Terminal 1 built back in 1981 suddenly seemed small, dingy and cramped in comparison.The highly efficient ADAC has taken less than three years to remedy the situation, opening an expanded, new-look Terminal 1 in late 2011. This is an important development as the airport’s original terminal hosts a number of very important international airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Air France, British Airways, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and KLM.So what has changed? Well, the terminal’s iconic circular design with its lavish, Arabic styling and spectacular mushroom-like, tiled blue and gold roof remains, but there are now numerous additions and enhancements. These improvements include the doubling of the seating capacity, new lighting, larger check-in and immigration areas, refurbished airline lounges, as well as a new multi-storey car park, car rental and banking facilities.The already high-class shopping offer operated by those luxury-retailing experts DFS Group has been expanded too we are happy to say. There is now much more room for designer fashion brands such as Burberry, which has now added its ready-to-wear fashion collection at the airport, while other iconic fashion names such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Bvlgari have been given more space and a bright, new look.The beauty offer has also grown in size and quality. The big beauty houses such as Dior, Chanel, Lancôme, La Prairie and Estée Lauder have been given more space to strut their stuff and DFS has made a point of highlighting launches and brands, which are exclusive to the region. Travellers will also find a good selection of Middle Eastern fragrances from the likes of brands such as Amouage and Ajmal.DFS also make a fine job of presenting the watches and sunglasses categories: both sectors get their own standalone stores in Terminal 1 with the accent very much on luxury. Chunky shades or chunky digital watches better suited to petrol stations have no place here. We are in the oil-rich state of Abu Dhabi after all, where the pockets of local travellers tend to be rather deep, and that is certainly reflected in the terminal’s store mix.
It is not all wallet-emptying fare though. The DFS Food & Candy store, for instance, stocks a wide range of reasonably priced chocolates, biscuits and even powdered drinks and toiletries, while the DFS Souk is the place to head to for eleventh-hour gifts and souvenirs such as local handicrafts, jewellery, lacquer ware and traditional shawls.DFS doesn’t run all the shops in Terminal 1. For instance, Sharaf, one of the UAE’s largest downtown electronics retailers, operates the electronics concession at the airport too, offering the usual range of mobile phones, PCs, digital cameras, games, MP3 players, tablets and travel accessories. Check out the retailer’s website, http://www.sharafdg.com/shop/index.aspx , to check on prices and availability.Gold, silver and diamond jewellery have always been popular buys in the Middle East and one of the region’s largest jeweller’s Pure Gold, which boasts some 100 stores across the Middle East and India, operates this product sector in all three of Abu Dhabi airport’s terminals. The range of styles, price points and brands on sale is very impressive: take a look for yourself at http://www.pugold.com/me/index.php.Middle Eastern airports pride themselves on headline-grabbing prize draws and competitions and Abu Dhabi airport is no different. Regular promotions give lucky passengers the chance to win luxury cars, gold ingots and cash prizes of up to AED 1,000,000 (£175,000). Terminal 1 has its own dedicated raffle counter where travellers can buy tickets, but you can also get them online at the airport’s excellent website: http://www.abudhabiairport.ae/english/. Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 1 is also home to the new Lamborghini Travel Retail Store.While the shops in Terminal 1 are certainly top notch, we have to say that the dining offer could still do with some more breadth. Passengers have to make do a couple of cafés, a McDonalds and just one bar. Some different cuisines and a couple of sit-down restaurants are definitely needed for such a busy terminal.Overall, however, Terminal 1 has taken a big step forward in the right direction, but the expansion of the airport continues apace. Thirty years after Abu Dhabi airport first opened its doors back in 1982 ADAC is already plotting the next chapter in the airport’s history: the construction of the giant, 700,000 square mere Midfield Terminal Building, which should be up and running by 2017.Related links
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