With tremendous financial and infrastructural growth under way in Qatar, the number of passengers using Doha International Airport has rocketed from two million to 10 million over the last 10 years, according to figures recently released.
During the 2006/07 financial year alone, national carrier Qatar Airways carried more than eight million passengers worldwide, with 31 airlines now using Doha airport.
Meanwhile the New Doha International Airport [NDIA], a project first budgeted at $5.5 billion but now expected to cost closer to $11 billion, is expected to open in 2009 with an initial capacity of 24 million passengers, increasing to 50 million passengers a year once the third phase is fully completed in 2015.
While the new facilities have been under construction, pressure has continued to increase on the existing airport, where considerable funds have been invested in upgrading and expanding existing facilities and extending the range of services.
Smart cards enable passengers to use ‘e-gates’ and in January, Brigadier Nasser Ahmed Al Malki, director of the passport and airport security department, told the local press that new state-of-the-art equipment has recently been deployed to quickly detect fake passports or visas.
Overall, passenger feedback using the airports standard facilities has rated Doha’s existing airport as ‘user friendly’, and in fact, Doha recently won an award as the best passenger handling airport in the Middle East.
Last November, Qatar duty free was named duty free retailer of the Year at the Aviation Business Awards 2007 in Dubai.
In addition to the range of products available, Qatar duty free has a ‘million dollar draw’, where one passenger won this in cash while two others won luxury cars in a raffle prize draw.
Deputy general manager, Krishna Kumari, says, “Qatar duty free has enjoyed tremendous success since launching the Qatar Riyal Millionaire Draw four years ago. With the newly-launched dollar millionaire draw last year, we have taken a huge step forward by increasing the prize money on offer by more than 300 per cent. Following the success of the first dollar millionaire draw, I look forward to welcoming many more instant millionaires over the next few months and years to come.
“The beauty of this draw is that it is not restricted to just one prize. Every time 5,000 tickets are sold, we will have a raffle draw at Doha International Airport, so this shows that the chances of becoming an instant millionaire are extremely high.” Tickets costing $2,468 can be bought by both departing and transit passengers.
Akbar Al Baker says “Qatar Duty Free has been enjoying significant growth year on year, helped by a ramping up of its presence in the departures and arrivals area at Doha International Airport, the airline’s operational hub. [In 2007] alone, Qatar Duty Free has grown more than 64 per cent over the previous 12 months.”
The focus is now on the new airport (NDIA), which will apparently offer about 12 times the duty free area now available as well as much larger check-in areas, and walkways for boarding. Not only will throughput at the airport touch 50 million passengers a year when phase three opens, the facility will handle 320,000 aircraft movements per year and two million tonnes of cargo.
When FKI Logistex announced towards the end of 2007 that they had been awarded a $123 million complete system and US$67 million five year, full service and maintenance contract for baggage handling at the NDIA, they indicated that initial requirements would be to handle and sort some 19,500 items of luggage each hour, generated by 20 million passengers per year.
The speed with which baggage can be transited from one flight to another will also increase, making shorter transit times possible for passengers seeking connecting flights.
Doha International Airport is to install aTarsier runway debris detection system that has been developed by international defence and security technology company QinetiQ.
Three radars will scan the 4,572 metre runway for foreign object debris 24 hours a day. Announcing the new system, Akbar Al Baker said, “Safety is an absolute priority for us and Doha International Airport has an excellent safety record. We see Tarsier as an integral part of our safety management system because it inspects the runway continuously with no disruption to aircraft movements. This will bring us both cost and operational benefits, but more importantly, is a commitment to have an airport operation which is fully safety driven.”
by Gina Coleman