Serving more than 24 million passengers in 2016, the international airport of Abu Dhabi is the second busiest in the United Arab Emirates. Like the busiest, Dubai International Airport, and Hamad International Airport in Doha (Qatar), it's an important traffic node between Europe, Asia and Africa. It's the home base of Etihad Airways, one of the Gulf carriers – i.e., airlines in the region whose business model largely consists of flying mid- or long-haul flights with large aircraft and a considerable number of passengers transiting in Abu Dhabi rather than having it as their departure point or final destination.
The airport is separated into Terminal 1 (the original terminal), Terminal 3 (mostly dedicated to Etihad Airways), and a smaller Terminal 2.
1 Terminal 1 provides a slightly dingy appearance and a spectacularly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates.
2 Terminal 2 has no aerobridges, relying on buses to take passengers to and from their planes.
3 Terminal 3 is much newer and has improved shopping and gate access. All flights from Terminal 3 are Etihad, but not all Etihad flights leave from Terminal 3. In particular, flights to and from the US use the older terminal.
A fourth major terminal, the 4 Midfield Terminal, was expected to open in 2019, but due to various delays it's expected to open in mid-to-late 2021. When it opens it will become one of the world's largest airport terminals with a floor area of 735,000 sqm, and increase the airport's capacity to more than 30 million passengers a year, but there are plans for further extensions increasing the capacity up to 80 million yearly passengers.
Ethiad is by far the largest operator at the airport, flying to airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania. The airport and airline was among the few with flights to all six inhabited continents, until they stopped services to São Paulo in 2017. Other than that, AUH is mostly served by Middle Eastern and South Asian airlines, in addition to a couple European ones.
The airport features a United States border preclearance facility, meaning that passengers flying to the U.S. will go through the American entry control before getting on the plane. It's one of just three such airports outside North America (the others are at Dublin and Shannon airports in Ireland).
Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of 75 dirham and take around 40 minutes.
Metered taxis are now allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. A trip into Abu Dhabi city center will cost 60-70 dirham. Metered taxis can also bring passengers to the airport. The taxi stand is at the end of a long walkway from the main terminal. Passengers must turn left when leaving the arrivals area and travel through a long passageway to the curb area, where a covered platform next to the taxi stand is provided. Expect long lines at the taxi stand during the evening and late night hours.
Public bus routes A1 and A2 head to the city every 30 minutes 24 hours a day. The A1 bus goes to the city air terminal in Al Zahiya and the A2 bus terminates at the intersection of Khalifa Str and Shk Zayed Str in Al Dana, see this map for the detailed route. It costs about 4 dirham to central Abu Dhabi (2.00 dirham base fare + 0.05 dirham per km). No tickets are sold on the bus, you need to purchase the Hafilat Smart Card (the card itself costs 10 dirham) from the ticket vending machine or public transport counter in the arrivals hall. There is also a free (no Hafilat card required) A18 minibus departing hourly between 08:00 and 22:00 from the airport and going directly to the Zayed Grand Mosque and continuing to ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exibition Centre) which is a good choice when you have a long layover during the day and just want to visit the Zayed Grand Mosque for free. All public buses (A1, A2 and A18) leave from the lower level (arrivals) outside T3.
If you are flying on Etihad or some partner airlines, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to Dubai and Al Ain (you should book these at least 24 hours in advance through this site). These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices: follow the Etihad Shuttle signs. In Dubai, you can also check in at the Etihad Travel Centre, that is close to Noor Bank station.
By limousine service
Ethiad first and business class passengers can avail complimentary Mercedes chaffeur service under similar conditions as the bus from this link to/from anywhere in the UAE.
It's possible to walk between the terminals. Terminal 1 and 3 are in practice two halves of one big building, Terminal 2 is about 2 km (1.2 mi) southeast of Terminal 1.
- 1 Al Ghazal Golf Club (in the airport area (landside) about 1 km from each terminal). 18-hole golf course, open to members and non-members. You can rent equipment and they also offer golf instruction. There are also tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a cricket field and conference room.
- There are four spa areas; Six Senses Spa in the Etihad Diamond First and Pearl Business Class lounges, and TOSA SPA in terminal 1 and Skypark Plaza (across the street from terminal 3)
Eat and drink
The airport offers free Wi-Fi and Internet kiosks.
- 1 Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport Hotel (landside, across the street from Terminal 3), ☏ .
- 2 Aerotel Abu Dhabi (Terminal 1), ✉ email@example.com. A proper hotel in the airport. Aerotel also operates two capsule hotels with "nap cabins" named Refreshh by Aerotel, both in Terminal 3 (one in the transit area, one in the international departures area).