Phase two of the expansion will take the airport to another level again. It involves the construction of Terminal 3, and an adjoining Concourse 2 and 3. It will also see the construction of what has been dubbed the Cargo Mega Terminal which, on completion, will help Dubai on its way to handling a projected three million tonnes of air cargo by 2018.
Terminal 3, in particular, represents a radical departure from what has gone before at the airport. Located 20 metres beneath the apron and taxiway area, the multi-level underground structure will include first class lounges, restaurants, 180 check-in counters and thousands of car parking spaces.
For many space-constrained airports, the idea of locating an entire terminal underground might seem like a visionary, space saving idea, but not for Dubai. "It's not so much for space reasons," says an airport spokesperson. "It's really for aesthetics and to be a little different."
Terminal 3 will also create a new visual experience for passengers: design consultants Aeroports de Paris will ensure passenger orientation by maintaining visual contact with the landside area through a fully-glazed facade at one end and Concourse 2, with its naturally lit atrium, at the other. Fortunately, Dubai rarely suffers from cloudy skies.
The new terminal is linked directly with Concourse 2, which in turn retains the fuselage shape of the adjoining Sheikh Rashid Terminal. Finally, Concourse 3 will be a scaled down version of Concourse 2.
Not surprisingly, much of Dubai's expansion is based around meeting the needs of its young tyro of a national carrier. Phase two will precipitate a major overhaul of airline operations with Terminal 3 and the two new concourses all designed for Emirates' exclusive use.
Ground has already been broken and the overall passenger side of the project is scheduled for completion by 2006. The Cargo Mega Terminal, meanwhile, will be built in phases and be completed by 2018. It will provide much needed capacity to grow the rapidly expanding cargo business through Dubai.
As if this wasn't enough, the DCA recently announced a separate US$137 million expansion plan for Terminal 2, which was initially designed to handle chartered, executive and special flights.
With a current capacity of 22 million, Dubai International Airport is hardly short on space, but why wait? Phase two of the airport's expansion will increase capacity to around 60 million passengers a year, which the DCA says should keep it ahead of the demand curve until around 2045.
The sheer scale of such a project places huge emphasis on the entire airport community working together to minimise operational impact. Central to this will be the role of Dnata, currently the airport's sole full service ground handling agent.
Dnata's challenge is to ensure that the quality of ground service at the airport matches the new facilities - both during construction and once complete. Its cause is undoubtedly helped by a close working relationship not only with the DCA but also its sister company and, in turn, largest customer, Emirates.
The Dnata management team, led by Ismail Ali Al Banna, Director, Airport Services, has been busy analysing exactly what the expansion will mean for its overall ground operation between now and 2006. "As a rule, we tend to look 15 to 18 months ahead in terms of detailed planning," explains Tom Lewis, Senior General Manager, Airport Operations.
Such detailed planning envisages the addition of 1,500 extra staff during the financial year to 2004 - an increase of over 40 percent - as well as capital investment in the region of US$25 million.
System requirements will also change and Dnata is about to commission a new baggage reconciliation system from Sita and also hopes to have an airport wide RF system up and running before the summer.
Of course, building what is effectively a new airport from the inside out will have a major impact on road access, apron settings and taxiway crossings - all of which will have to be factored in to Dnata's operational planning.
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