Terminal 3 catapults Abu Dhabi airport into the major league
Abu Dhabi International airport has every reason to celebrate. The influential Skytrax World Airport Awards named AUH second best airport in the Middle East for 2011, following its award for world’s ‘Most Improved Airport’ in 2010.
The opening of the $1 billion (£63 million) T3 in Spring 2009 is one of the main reasons for this startling turnaround of fortunes (along with other popular upgrades to passenger services such as the introduction of free wi-fi and new parking facilities). Enabling the airport the airport to handle 12m passengers a year, this state-of-the-art facility, which predominantly handles the flights of fast-growing national carrier Etihad, boasts a greatly enhanced retail and dining offer than at either of two older terminals. The master retail concessionaire in T3 is DFS Group•the world’s largest duty-free retailer, whose string of downtown Gallerias across Asia are a byword for luxury retailing.
So for lovers of designer labels DFS has ensured T3 is a paradise, especially when it comes to fashion and accessories. There are no fewer than 19 standalone boutiques from brands such as Rolex, Burberry, Montblanc, Tag Heuer, Polo Ralph Lauren, Swarovski and Bvlgari. The terminal also features the world’s only Jimmy Choo boutique and the Middle East’s first Hermes outlet.A recent DFS travel-retail exclusive collection to hit the shelves at the airport is the Dunhill Heist men’s luggage collection, which includes useful, but also stylish pieces such as a double-zip briefcase, messenger bags, document cases, trolleys, and rucksacks.
Other new lines at DFS include Elizabeth Arden’s Prevage anti-ageing skincare range, which includes moisturizers, night creams and brightening serums, as well as men’s and women’s fashion watches from Italian brand Fendi.
These luxury brands so tastefully displayed in T3 are very much targeted at the new breed of wealthy Asian and European travellers using the airport these days, many of whom are transiting on Etihad flights connecting Europe and Asia. First and Business Class passengers are treated like royalty, getting their own check-in and sumptuous lounges to while away the time before their flights.
However, it is also worth pointing out that less affluent customers from the Indian subcontinent, a substantial number of whom work in the UAE, haven’t been forgotten either. DFS’ duty-free stores in all three terminals offer a range of mass-market confectionery and tobacco brands, as well as popular liquor brands.
For an airport based in a Muslim country, you also might be surprised to learn that the duty-free liquor offer at Abu Dhabi airport is excellent, a result of the large amount of foreign ex-pat workers residing in the Emirate. In-bound allowances are generous (4 litres of spirits and 24 cans of beer). Be sure to visit the excellent tasting bar in DFS’ T3 store to see which brands are being promoted.Rare Scotchsingle malts and ultra-premium blends are not in short supply. You will find the dark, complex The Macallan 1824 at AED6,797 (£1,171), for instance, as well as the powerfully rich Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V Edition at AED1,440 (£250).
Electronics prices are generally cheaper in the UAE than in many other markets worldwide thanks to the lack of import duties. Yet although downtown prices are competitive and worth checking, Abu Dhabi airport’s local electronics retailer in all three terminals Sharaf DG, one of the UAE’s biggest electronics retailers, also offers a good selection of digital cameras, laptops, notebooks, MP3 players, mobile phones and games consoles.
To get a good idea of what Sharaf DG has to offer before you travel, log on to the company’s website, http://www.sharafdg.com/shop/index.aspx. Alternatively, call the company direct on tel. +971 2 5757748.
Gold and diamond jewellery are two other product categories consistently in demand in Middle Eastern duty-free. Another local retailer, Pure Gold, runs the airport’s gold and diamonds outlets in all three terminals.An experienced jewellery retailer (and manufacturer) with over 85 outlets in the Middle East and India, ranges stocked include classic designs of engagement and bridal jewellery in platinum, yellow and white gold, as well as Italian-inspired collections, costume jewellery with prices as low as AED180 (£31), and even cute designs for babies and children (Baby Bling).
Visit Pure Gold’s website for a full run-down at www.pugold.com/home of what is available.
It has to be said that the selection of restaurants, bars and cafés at T3 is a vast improvement on what is offered currently in the other two terminals. It includes no-nonsense fast-food options such as Burger King and healthier sandwich and roll shops (Upper Crust) and more substantial sit-down options such as Chinese and Lebanese restaurants (Yum Cha and Sahten), as well as Gino’s pizza and an English-style pub, Bill Bentley.
As impressive as T3 undoubtedly is, Abu Dhabi airport isn’t happy to sit on its laurels. There is a renovation programme currently underway to raise the standards of retail at Terminals 1 and 2. There are also ambitions plans to open a fourth terminal by 2012. This giant Midfield Terminal will take the airport’s passenger capacity up to 20 million and make Abu Dhabi a serious player in the region’s fast-growing aviation market.
Oil-rich Abu Dhabi has a grand 30-year plan to become one of the leading tourist destinations in the Middle East, and the airport that serves it needs to keep pace.
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Abu Dhabi International Airport