Zander Muego, director at Thomas & Adamson Middle East, discusses how the project management consultants ensured the facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3, was completed within time, budget and to the required perfection.
What went into making the lounge stand head and shoulders above surrounding public spaces?
The brief was to create a “private jet experience with a unique VVIP look and feel.” Our role as the project management and cost consultancy was to deliver this through procurement and management of multiple consultants, contractors, suppliers and internal stakeholders.
From a design perspective this meant a wide variety of high quality materials and textures for the visual elements, such as interior finishes and lighting. From an interior design perspective, the principles of style, space and serenity were to be merged with Etihad Airways’ distinctive ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ branding. The core was the geometric patterns and colour palette inspired by the UAE landscape. The space was to create an ultra-exclusive lifestyle experience with a wide variety of functions to cater to different preferences of the passengers.
The lounge features 16 unique zones designed to ensure that guests can relax, re-energise and be entertained in total luxury before boarding their flight. An à la carte restaurant, showcase bar, fitness room, cigar lounge, six senses spa, style and shave barbers, nail bar, TV room, secluded relaxation room, prayer room and children’s play room ensure that all guests receive a highly personalised experience and intuitive service.
"If an operator wants to create a truly luxury environment, they really need to start from first principles, plan the experience and develop the space around this."
How important were cost considerations when completing this project?
While cost was not the primary objective at the outset of this project, as with any commercial entity, it was imperative that we established a fixed budget and adhered to this throughout delivery of the project.
There were a significant number of stakeholders involved in this project, so a large part of Thomas & Adamson’s role was to co-ordinate each of the stakeholder’s requirements and tie these into the wider project. With this large numbers of stakeholders and the inevitable evolution of the operational plans and processes, the main cost management function came in the form of robust change management and the related negotiation that was required along with this to both control and accurately report the impact of any change.
Did any part of the project take importance over the others?
The F&B was a big part of the offering. There is a fine dining experience on offer with a large kitchen and a variety of cuisines. What that meant from a design perspective was to create a high-end well-functioning space that could make this result possible. The kitchen prepares all dining in-house so that guests are able to experience a number of different cuisines. There is also a casual dining and bar snack menu provided.
The sculptural showcase bar is now a striking feature of Etihad Airways’ new collection of global lounges including the recently opened New York and Melbourne facilities.
The spa facilities were second to none, and from a design and delivery perspective this had to take into consideration a large number of different uses from; a hairdressers and barber, a gym and as well as a massage function. The Six Senses Spa, on its own, comprises three treatment rooms with shower facilities. The Relax & Recline area features a large video wall made up of 27 individual screens, sound and lighting and is furnished with six Poltona Frau leather recliners. The fitness room is equipped with state-of-the-art Technogym treadmills and cross trainers, and male and female washrooms and showers. There are a number of relaxation spaces for different uses, including a dark room, a chill out room and a children’s room.
"It was imperative that we established a fixed budget and adhered to this throughout delivery of the project."
Can you give any space a facelift to create a luxury environment or does it have to be built from the ground up?
There is always an option to upgrade the materials and provide a superficial ‘facelift’, however if an operator wants to create a truly luxury environment, they really need to start from first principles, plan the experience and develop the space around this. The layout and the end experience are closely interlinked, so in simple terms, if you are not changing the experience, then yes a superficial upgrade can be appropriate, but if you intend to move the space to one which provides the luxury experience that the business and first class market expects in the modern aviation market, a more fundamental review of the space will be required.
What makes defining luxury spaces in the Middle East different from say in the UK?
The Middle East is renowned for its high-end luxury. The Middle East has the benefit of being relatively new, so luxury is considered from the off, rather than in more established locations like the UK, where upgrades are more of a necessity. The second point on luxury in the region is the quality of service we receive. It is important to note, however, that as far as airport lounges go, the quality and level of luxury is driven by carrier rather than location. Etihad as an example has first and business class lounges in many destination airports. Finally it’s worth mentioning that the cost of labour and materials between countries will vary, which can impact the budget required to invest in the creation of luxury spaces.
"That as far as airport lounges go, the quality and level of luxury is driven by carrier rather than location."