T2: Our new gateway to the skies
Pól ó Conghaile has a sneak preview of Dublin Airport's Terminal 2.
The eagle has landed. This Friday, after three contentious years of construction, the biggest single infrastructural project in the history of Irish aviation opens for business.
Welcome to Terminal 2, Dublin's gleaming new flight depot which is set to drag Irish travel into a brave new world.
After an inaugural Aer Lingus flight on Friday, T2 opens to the public on Tuesday, November 23.
So what will it do?
Simply put, T2 adds space. In 2005, when it got the go-ahead, Dublin Airport was struggling to cope with exploding passenger numbers. It wasn't a nice place to be.
The new terminal, along with new additions such as Pier D and Area 14, brings capacity to 35 million passengers.
For the moment, T2 will handle a mix of long and short-haul flights. Perhaps its finest feature is the new US Customs & Border Protection pre-clearance facility. It's a vast improvement on the old transatlantic queues.
US-bound passengers won't know themselves.
Who's moving in?
T2 will handle all of Aer Lingus's flights, as well as long-haul flights operated by Etihad and transatlantic flights by American Airlines, Delta, Continental and US Airways. Ryanair will not be moving to the "white elephant", as Michael O'Leary calls it.
The terminal will open on a phased basis, with Aer Lingus moving its London services on November 23, and the rest of its short-haul routes from November 30.
Etihad plans to operate its Abu Dhabi service at T2 from November 23. Transatlantic services move in on December 7.
Who's staying behind?
Airlines continuing to operate at Terminal 1 include Ryanair, Adria, Aer Arann, BMI, Air Baltic, Air Canada, Air France, CityJet, Air Transat, Air Southwest, Flybe.com, Germanwings, Iberia, Lufthansa, Luxair, Malev, Norwegian, SAS, Sata, Swiss and Turkish Airlines.
All charter flights (for ski and sun holidays) will continue to operate from T1.
Give me the numbers
Okay, here goes. A massive 95,000 cubic metres of concrete were used on T2, its pier and adjacent airfield stands. It contains 20,000 light fittings, 62 lifts, 34 escalators and 6km of baggage belts and chutes.
At 75,000sq ft, the terminal footprint is equivalent in size to five Croke Park pitches.
How does it look?
T2 is a stunner. Coming at it from the new approach roads, it looks like two airplane wings chopped in half (the wings, connected by a bridge, form the landside and airside sections of the building). It makes T1 look like a regional airport in Turkmenistan.
Inside, the first thing you notice is the brightness and space. At 193m long and 38m wide, T2's check-in hall is one of the largest rooms in Ireland.
I'd rate it alongside the new Aviva Stadium for sheer impact; it feels like a comeback after construction cock-ups such as Anglo HQ and Ireland's ghost estates.
How much did it cost?
Brace yourself -- a mighty €395 million. Still, it compares well to the €410 million spent on the Aviva Stadium, and the near-€5 billion price tag for Heathrow's Terminal 5 (though that's the size of Hyde Park).
The wider T2 complex -- including roads, utilities, a new multi-storey car park and enablement works for a possible future metro -- chalks the bill up to €609 million.
Phew! I need a breather
Check out the Taste of 'Ireland' food court. There's a Diep Noodle Bar, but if Thai dishes such as Bangkok noodles (€7.95) don't take your fancy, how about a burger (€8) from Gourmet Burger Kitchen, or fish 'n' chips from Wright's of Howth (€9.95)?
Also on the mezzanine arrivals level, you'll find the Oak Café Bar, with an oak-beam canopy designed by Tom de Paor. This is a classy, open space, specialising in hearty, Avoca-style fare.
You can create your own house salads (starting with a base of lettuce, noodles, mixed leaves or couscous) from €7, or gobble a bowl of gourmet stew at €7.95.
Can passengers be dropped to the door?
T2 has its own dedicated approach roads, with the lane closest to the building reserved for taxis, buses and disabled drivers, and a second lane for private cars.
You can also park in a new multi-storey car park opposite the terminal. It connects to the arrivals level via a tube-like bridge -- so, technically, if you have checked in online, you can scoot directly across to the security channels using this route.
Bear in mind that short-term parking costs up to €4.50 per hour.
Talk me through check-in...
Check-in is on the ground floor, where passengers are faced with a bank of 56 check-in desks -- a major step forward from the often chaotic lines of check-in counters in T1.
Desks 1-28 here will be manned by Etihad, Continental, Delta, US Airways and American. Aer Lingus operates desks 29-56, and its green, electronic check-in consoles are ready to go.
At 75,000sq ft, it's surprising to learn T2 is the same size as T1. With its huge windows, overhanging mezzanine levels and three storeys of head space, it feels much bigger and brighter.
I love the elevator shafts too -- they're hidden away in translucent blue boxes.
How much time should I allow between check-in and gates?
After check-in, passengers ascend to the departures level on the second floor. There is a single bank of 14 security channels here, and the transition through them is seamless in comparison to the snaking queues of T1.
Without security hiccups or shopping stops, the DAA estimates passengers will get from check-in to gates in a snappy 10-15 minutes.
Let the shopping begin
T2's international departures lounge is a suave, curvy open space stretching from security to the escalators dipping down to the departure gates. It feels like a cross between BT2 and the swanky shops and sushi joints en route to Pier D in Terminal 1 -- though the open layout is a major step forward from that terminal's 'street' set-up.
Some 30 concessions, including Hugo Boss, Dixon's Travel, Sunglass Hut, Hour Passion, Rolling Luggage, Jo Malone and Collezioni, are laid out amongst Champagne bars, duty-free shops, panoramic views (and yes, the obligatory Burger King).
The souvenir offerings are Irish Memories, where you'll find Paddywhackery on tap, and House of Ireland, with high-end goodies such as Waterford Crystal, Newbridge Silver and Beleek China.
Watch out too for the Christmas Market on the mezzanine level -- a dozen or so stalls here will sell crafts, jewellery, clothes and other seasonal 'giftables' in the run-up to Christmas.
So far, so predictable. Anything more exciting?
Now this is novel. Dylan Bradshaw is opening a blow-dry bar at T2. The funky little salon stands in a pod in the middle of the retail concourse, with eight stations primed to get customers in and out in less than 30 minutes. You can book in advance (01-671 9353; dylanbradshawblowdrybar.com), or just walk in.
What's available? A menu of nine looks includes the 'poker' (dead straight) and the 'shag' (messy but dressy), and all are priced at €32 a pop.
There's also a list of Kérastase Ritual treatments, head massages and manicures starting at €25 -- they're available to men, too.
Anything else for the boys?
T2 has received delivery of a Porsche Boxster and an Audi R8, but anyone with designs on driving them home will have to win a spot-the-ball competition first.
Best of the Best's luxury-car draws are offered under a sleek black canopy, with entrants paying €5 and €25 to enter competitions for the Porsche and Audi respectively. The closest entry to the actual ball position wins -- everyone else gets to ogle these impossibly ritzy machines.
I'm hungry again
C'mon. We already get through 7,000 sandwiches, 5,000 hot meals and 12,600 hot drinks every day at the airport as it is. T2 will add to that substantially, starting no doubt with hundreds of Irish breakfasts served up daily at Harvest Market on the mezzanine level.
Surely the DAA could do better than to plonk a big fat Burger King beside it? My advice is to skip the fast food for a bowl of soup next door (think field mushroom and black pudding, or carrot, cumin and lentil, for €5.50). For a treat afterwards, you could grab a chocolate, pistachio or orange-blossom macaroon from the market-style handcart at Ladurée.
Children can grab a meal plus drink from €5.50, or share a stone-baked pizza for €8.
What about duty-free?
You'll find all the suspects in the DAA's Loop store, the first outlet on the left as you emerge from security.
There's nothing much to distinguish this from the T1 offerings, save for an unusual new offering in the Irish Whiskey Collection.
This corner space houses glossy shelves of Tullamore Dew, Jameson, Bushmills and Midleton et al next to videos on whiskey production, is staffed by whiskey boffins and promises to run regular sampling events.
One whiskey, a 19-year-old Greenore, costs a cool €160. Just don't miss your flight!
I need a lie-down
We told you to go easy! There's a small scattering of stainless-steel and leather seats in the retail area, but I'd suggest making for the pinkish-red seats laid out between Flutes and Dylan Bradshaw. With soft, velvety fabric, they're the perfect spot to kick back and people-watch.
If your flight is delayed, finding a spot to stretch out will be more of an issue. Many airports these days discourage snoozers by fixing arms to chairs, and T2 is no different. Your only option, I'm afraid, is to make for the gates and find a quiet spot on the floor.
I've forgotten my insect repellent
Don't worry: Pure Pharmacy is on the right-hand side just as you pass through security -- a 200sqm space with over-the-counter medicines and cosmetics. There's also a pharmacist on duty to dispense prescriptions.
I'm thirsty again
Flutes is a dedicated bubbles bar; you can grab a pint or glass of wine at the Slaney (a pint of Guinness costs €4.80), and airside coffee outlets include the first Lavazza in an Irish airport. The average price of a 10-12oz Americano, I'm told, will be around €2.30.
My favourite bar is the Chocolate Lounge. Only one other outlet exists in the world -- in Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh -- so it's something of a coup to get this into T2.
Basically, what you have here is a funky menu (think chocolate sandwiches, rose-petal drinks, chilled Champagne) served at a tall white counter with snacks floating along a sushi-style conveyor belt. Pearly mosaic tiles and a kick-ass view of the airfield seal the deal.
I need to get online
Unlike T1, Terminal 2 has plenty of power points peppered around the public seating areas, and the large Slaney Bar has a circular bank of seating with dedicated power points and USB ports. Wi-Fi will be charged at rates similar to T1, I'm told; ie, €5 per hour or €15 per day.
What is Pier E?
Pier E contains the departure and arrival gates for airplanes using T2. It runs perpendicular to the new terminal building. After passing through the retail area, passengers descend into it using the longest free-standing escalators in Ireland. Departure gates are labelled 400-426.
Pier E basically works as a long gangway, with 19 air bridges connecting to the planes outside. It is scattered with smaller coffee stands, WH Smith and Irish Meadows outlets, and I walked the 420m from the escalators to Gate 426 in five-and-a-half minutes.
A nice surprise also worth mentioning is the view of the Dublin Mountains from the end of the pier. It's also a great spot to watch planes landing and taking off nearby.
How will US pre-clearance work?
One of T2's selling points is the fact that US-bound passengers will be able to clear both immigration and customs in Dublin (currently, they can clear immigration only). T2 and Shannon will be the only airports in Europe offering this service.
This is hugely convenient -- it means you can effectively become a US domestic passenger on Irish soil, opening up a wider choice of airports in the US. Already, for instance, US Airways plans to operate a direct flight from Dublin to Charlotte, NC, from 2011.
The new pre-clearance regime will come into play some time in early 2011. Until then, US flights will operate under the existing immigration regime -- albeit in a space streets ahead of the cramped cattle-herding that precedes US flights in T1.
Pre-clearance is located on the ground floor of Pier E, in a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a dedicated form-filling area and 20 boat-like immigration checkpoints built from American cherry wood. US-bound bags will be handled in a dedicated channel too, which means they can be accessed within minutes if further inspection is required.
Anything to note about arrivals?
T2's baggage collection area is a major improvement on T1. Passengers enter from a single point (meaning no confusing criss- crossing) and there is gallons more space. Carousel No 2 alone can handle bags from two wide- bodied aircraft simultaneously.
Next, passengers proceed through the customs channels, passing a small DAA shop as they enter the arrivals concourse. This is your guilt shop (open 5am to last flight), where you can spare the blushes back home with a small selection of perfumes, wines, spirits and sweets.
From here, trundling across the tube-bridge, the car park is literally minutes away.
Last but not least...the loos!
The loos in Terminal 1 are a bit grotty. Not so much in Pier D and Area 14, but elsewhere, they certainly wouldn't be my first choice for freshening up after a long flight.
T2's toilets are an improvement, by virtue of their sheer newness. You'll find them by following the blue signage, and there's no shortage either -- the terminal and pier have 400 individual toilets and a good scattering of decent-sized baby-changing and disabled facilities.