The changing face of Doha airport
Qatar has the world’s fastest growing economy and its national carrier is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world.
Apart from its phenomenal growth in the oil gas and petrochemicals industry, Qatar is developing as a major MICE destination and the sports capital of the Gulf. Its leisure and tourism sector is growing and Qatar Airways, with Doha as its hub, will be flying to around 70 destinations by the end of this year. All that indicates that traffic to Doha and onwards through Doha airport will also increase dramatically. It’s hard to believe now that, at the end of the 1970s, the Qatari capital’s airport had just a one-room terminal building serving both arrivals and departures!
Foundation for new airport
On January 11, Qatar’s Prime Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani laid the foundation stone for the $5.5 billion New Doha International Airport (NDIA) to be completed in three phases. The first two are expected to be completed by 2009, and the third phase between 2015 and 2022. On completion, the airport – covering 22.5 sq km – will be able to handle 50 million passengers and 1.5 million to 2 million tonnes of cargo per year. NDIA is being built on reclaimed land east of the existing airport, and the ceremony was held at a point that will be at the end of one of the two new runways. Forty percent of the site will be reclaimed land; around 63 million cubic metres of fill is being dredged from the sea.
The airport is being designed on a ‘water’ theme, with a large landscaped lagoon and fountains at the entrance, and a wave design for the roof of the passenger terminal. The new Emiri Terminal has sails as its theme, to link to the main airport design. NDIA will be the world’s first airport to be designed and built specially for the new airbus A380-800 double-decker ‘super jumbo’. US engineering giant, Bechtel, has been awarded the contract to design and build the new airport. Of 20 contracts, three have already been awarded, five are at the qualification stage and seven at the pre-qualification stage. The first phase will consist of a 130,000 sq m, three-storey, terminal that will have the capacity to handle 12 million passengers per year. It will have with 24 contact gates, two of which will cater to the A380-800, and at least seven remote gates.
An airport hotel will be built adjacent to the terminal, and another 100-room hotel will be constructed within the terminal for transit passengers. There will be more than 25,000 sq m of retail facilities and comfortable lounges and both passengers and visitors to the airport will be able to utilise the multi-storey short-term and long-term parking. The new airport is also set to provide a spectacular first impression to business visitors and tourists, and Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO and a member of the NDIA Steering Committee, believes it will “set the benchmark for all future airports, positioning Doha and Qatar as a leading regional aviation hub for at least the next 50 years. It will be an irresistible incentive for major international airlines to operate through Doha.”
There will be two runways: one of 4,850-metres, capable of taking a fully-laden A380-800 and another of 4,250m. The aircraft maintenance centre at the airport will have hangers that can accommodate two A380-800s and three A-340s at any one time and a new cargo facility will be able to handle 750,000 tonnes per annum. It will have eight hardstand aircraft parking bays, a general aviation terminal and hanger; a courier and mail facility; Free Trade Zone and Business Park. A new Qatar Airways’ headquarters building will be on the site together with a new Qatar Airways’ training facility that will include flight simulators.
The mid-term phase of the new airport development will include the addition of a further 16 contact gates and five remote gates. Of the total 40 contact gates, four will cater to A380-800s. The terminal building will be extended in the mid-term phase to 219,000 sq m to handle 24 million passengers per annum. A ‘People Mover’ or suspended monorail will be added to transport passengers through the terminal; and an additional 100-room hotel for transit passengers will be added.
The final phase of the new airport development will include an increase in the number of Contact Gates to 80 – six of which will cater to A380-800s. The terminal building will then finally be extended to 416,000 sq m, to handle 50 million passengers per annum.
Apart from flying passengers to their chosen destinations, Qatar Airways is responsible for the operation of current Doha International Airport, a facility that receives 22 other airlines, and it will be responsible for operating NDIA. But the number of passengers using the existing airport is on the rise and Qatar Airways has invested millions in upgrading and expansion of the existing facilities.
Current airport facilities
A broad $140 million programme was established in 2003 to increase the annual capacity of the existing airport from 4.2 million to 7.5 million passengers. Other upgrades to the airport include new aircraft stands and covered (paid) parking for 2,000 vehicles which has significantly reduced congestion in the car park as well as avoiding the feeling you’re getting into an oven if your car has been parked for an hour or so at the height of summer!
The number of check-in counters has been increased to 44, and transfer desks to 17. Immigration services have been streamlined, with the addition of more immigration counters in the arrivals and departures terminal; 13 new counters for hotels, car hire and other passenger services were added to the arrivals hall; the number of banking facilities in the arrivals and departures terminal was increased; new café facilities were added in the arrivals terminal; the latest x-ray security system has been installed to upgrade the previous facilities, and there are additional contemporary waiting areas for families and friends in the arrivals terminal. The baggage hall has been upgraded and Duty Free in arrivals extended. “We’re applying the same high service standards that we’ve established in the air with Qatar Airways, to our passenger services at Doha International Airport,” said Al Baker.
Qatar Duty Free
Qatar Duty Free (QDF), a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, was involved in a major re-fit of its main Departures shop, in the second half of 2004, significantly altering the retail offer at the Doha International Airport with some innovative and creative product category displays while also maximising the internal space within the retail environment. QDF has an open-plan shop in Arrivals and last year opened a shop in the temporary VIP building where trade has been going well.
QDF officials say that due to obvious space considerations on board the aircraft, in-flight sales focus on key product categories – and within those, on the best selling lines. The advantage of the main shop, they say, is one of space, allowing a far greater product range to be displayed and sold. For example, gold sales are particularly strong within the main Departures shop. A greater number of promotional activities are also possible, allowing the Airport Retailer to offer an excellent range of special offers to their customers.