Inside the controversial Terminal 2 as it gets ready for take-off
It took nine million man hours, 95,000 cubic metres of concrete and 20,000 light bulbs, but the much-touted Terminal 2 will be ready for take-off later this year.
The airy expanse of steel and glass -- first dreamed up by architects as part of a master plan for the hub in the midst of the Celtic Tiger -- will soon greet long-haul passengers travelling through Dublin Airport's 'T2'.
Already passengers are seeing dramatic views of one the largest construction projects in the history of the State as they pass underneath the €600m hunk of gleaming steel to enter the older 1970s-era terminal.
This newest wing of Dublin Airport, which first opened its doors for business on January 19, 1940, is decidedly a 21st-Century creation. The low ceilings, cramped check-in and baggage collection hall have been left behind. In their place is a bright, airy space with high ceilings, glass and cloth panels that draw the eye upwards.
As the first sod was turned in October 2007, it was envisaged that more than 26 million people would be travelling through Dublin Airport by 2010. This slumped dramatically to 18 million passengers a year as the worldwide downturn took hold.
But the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) insisted the infrastructure was being erected not just to cater for the Celtic Tiger traffic but far into the future.
"Terminal 2 is built for many generations. You have to build for expansion," DAA spokesman Vincent Wall said.
"We are building this not only to accommodate the projected traffic growth, but also to attract new airlines that might not have come only for this terminal. We may get Air India."
Outside the door of T2, there are about 2,000 parking spaces, a place left vacant for the potential erection of the Metro terminal and an area for a four-star hotel should the economic conditions improve.
From the moment passengers travelling via Aer Lingus, or with the US long-haul carriers such as Continental, arrive at the terminal, they will be guided by 2,000 signs and blue lighting toward the departure gates.
"The main difference is that there is much more space, light and comfort. You get a feeling that I am not going to be cramped here. This is a modern building. There is seating wherever we can, there will be fast-tracking of passenger security, you will get through the building quicker. Generally, it is comfort, efficiency, it is what a modern building offers you," Mr Wall said.
Such was the eagerness to view the building that more than 4,000 people volunteered to take part as 'fake' passengers in test runs of the terminal, where about 1,000 staff will be employed.
The entire footprint of T2 is 75,000sqm, the same as Terminal 1, while the 420-metre pier is the same length as Dublin's O'Connell Street.
A US Customs and Border Protection facility -- similar to Shannon Airport, and one of only two outside of North America -- has been set up.
It means passengers will clear immigration and customs control on Irish soil, but it also means duty-free goods will not be sold on board as it they will be treated as US-domestic passengers once they clear customs.
Every piece of baggage checked in for the US will be photographed, which will enable customs officers to access particular bags within two minutes if any suspicions arise.
And, should the upturn arrive, there is space for a further pier to be added to cater for those jet-setting generations of the future.