Plans to convert the Al Bateen military airport for commercial use came as Etihad, the Abu Dhabi state airline, revealed an order for 100 aircraft worth $20 billion at list prices.
Al Bateen is 10km from Abu Dhabi's business district and will offer separate VIP and VVIP facilities. It will be run by the country's airport authority and is designed to cater for the UAE capital's ambitions to become a major business and tourism destination.
”It will be the only dedicated airport of its kind in the Middle East - there is huge growth in this sector in the Gulf, particularly in Abu Dhabi, where we have to cater for businesses that are springing up,” said an Abu Dhabi airport spokesman.
Abu Dhabi is spending $200 billion in the next decade in order to diversify its economy away from oil production. Plans include opening a Guggenheim Museum and a branch of the Louvre art gallery.
Speaking at the Farnborough air show, Etihad chief executive James Hogan said the Middle East was ”a new centre for global aviation”, acting as a natural bridge between east and west. He estimated that the region's ten major airports would account for an extra 318 million passengers a year by 2012.
Construction of a second runway and two new terminals at Abu Dhabi's main airport is already underway as work begins on the private jet facility.
Hogan said a barrier to flying through the Middle East in the past - aircraft range restrictions - had been removed with modern technology.
”Traditionally, people flying through the Middle East flew two-stop journeys,” Hogan said. ”Now it is one-stop or non-stop.”