When I landed in Doha for the first time back in 2005, I was surprise that I had to take the stairs and walk on the runway to the bus to take me to the airport arrival lounge and the immigration counter. Then I learned that for 2006 Asian Games, Qatar would use a new airport, for the athletes. As the time got nearer to the event, I wondered when would this new airport open. Then I heard the gossip that ‘they’ couldn’t make it for the Asian Games and instead they would open a temporary arrival lounge especially for the Asian Games athletes and officials.
Now, more than six years on, Qatar is still working on the New Doha International Airport, or rather the Hamad International Airport; but it’s now very close to the opening time, at least the authority is sort of announcing the soft opening date, the 1st of April 2013. The question is whether this is for real or an April Fool?
I think this is now for real, as now I am part of the team involved in the construction of this new airport, at least I know how far it is to go for the finishing of the airport and at least I know and I can see how the airport will look like; as six years ago, I never knew anything about the design or the shape of the airport.
Did I mention that it’s only a soft opening? As only 10 airlines will fly from HIA on the 1st of April, namely:
- Air Arabia,
- Air India Express,
- Biman Bangladesh Airlines,
- Iran Air,
- Nepal Airlines,
- Pakistan International Airline,
- RAK Airways,
- Syrian Air
- Yemen Airways,
So for the frequent flyers with Qatar Airways and from the other bigger airlines, they will have to wait until at least the end of the year when officially the airport will be fully operated.
Here are some interesting facts about the new airport as of Doha News which said:
“There are 41 contact gates in the main passenger terminal – Those gates have some 88 Passenger Loading Bridges. That means no more long bus rides to and from the planes – passengers can just walk down the bridge onto the plane, like at many other airports in the world. Also, the terminal itself should be able to handle 28 million people a year.”
Does this now mean a competition between 3 airports in the region? (namely Abu Dhabi Airport, Dubai Airport and Doha Airport) and is there a need to have 3 hubs in the region? I just try to compare the competition of airports in the ‘80s between Amsterdam and Frankfurt airport, when both tried to be the European air hub, but never fulfilled it’s expectation.
“Terminal 1 will have 150 passenger check-in stations. That includes 14 check-in booths for First Class and 16 check-in desks for Business Class. Ideally that also means no waiting in long lines, although that remains to be seen.”
I guess Qatar is gearing up toward the 2022 World Cup (which is 9 years away from now) when they will expect an influx of tourists and football fans. But between now and then, I can’t see any possibility that Qatar will have so many visitors except business people and expats. I wonder what will happen after the World Cup? I just remember the building of new airports in Barcelona, just for the Olympic Games, but after that, the airport was too empty….
“The next phase of the airport will handle 50 million passengers a year. Dubbed Phase 3A, and due to be completed by 2017, it will include the development of an expansion of Terminal 1 and the addition of a training center, rail station, car rental facilities, a “sea rescue” harbor and a multi-story parking structure.”
Well, I don’t think I will be there by the time the next terminal opens. Will I still be a Seasoned Traveler and using Qatar Airways to see the “New” terminal…? Who knows…..