Doha: Hamad International

The new Doha airport is set for a ‘soft opening’ on April 1. Tom Allett reports.

The official identity of Qatar’s new gateway was revealed in January when Abdul Aziz Al Noaimi, Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, said it had been named after the Gulf state’s Emir, His Highness Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.  The much-delayed facility – estimated to have cost between US$15-16 billion – was originally scheduled to open in 2009, but recently missed another deadline that was set for December 12, 2012.
At a press event to celebrate Qatar Airway’s first Boeing 787 flight to London Heathrow on December 13, 2012, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Airports International that the new airport was: “complete, except for the airline lounges.”  He revealed that it had already handled a few “overspill flights” from the existing Doha Airport associated with a major exhibition and conference that was taking place there.
At the same press conference Mr Al Baker said Qatar Airways which, through its Group status is the airport operator and main customer, would be launching a US$600m compensation claim against the company it held responsible for the delayed lounges.  He added:  “You can imagine how much it would cost an airline to delay its move to a new home.”
The law suit was later confirmed as being against the German-Emirati joint venture company Lindner Depa Interiors (LDI) which was formed in 2007 and has worked on many high-profile international airport developments.
Qatar Airways issued a statement claiming that LDI failed to complete a US$250 million project to fit-out 19 airport lounges by the summer of 2012, thereby contributing to its opening being delayed again.
LDI strongly denies the accusation and on December 29 issued a rebuttal saying that it: “acknowledges Qatar Airways’ statement as a false and misleading representation of the facts around the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) project.”  It went on to say the company was: “deeply disappointed by the allegations made by Qatar Airways and rebuts all claims,” adding: “Furthermore, LDI has never had a contract or relationship with Qatar Airways, nor has it received any legal claim from the airline.”
LDI says it is currently in arbitration proceedings with the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) and claims it was: “denied full access to the project site for the first nine months of the 16-month project.”  LDI says this delay: “combined with NDIA’s refusal to pay acceleration costs recommended by its own management consultancy,” meant LDI was: “unable to start all interior contracting work on site as planned,” and: “As a result, LDI was unable to meet its original contract completion date.”  LDI says it is: “seeking legal counsel as a result of the damage caused to its reputation based on the false and misleading information made in the Qatar Airways’ statement.”
In the meantime a new contractor has been appointed to complete the lounge work by the end of this summer.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker has said the new airport’s December 12, 2012, opening date was largely delayed because its lounge facilities had not been completed on schedule. (Photo: Qatar Airways)

Soft Opening

The good news is that the new airport will have what it describes as a: “soft opening” on April 1, 2013, when it will handle 12 airlines that do not require lounge access.  At the time of writing, January 2013, no specific date for the commencement of full operations, including those of the national carrier Qatar Airways, has been announced.  Only the second half of 2013 is mentioned.

When the first phase of Hamad International opens it will have a design capacity of approximately 28 million passengers a year, though this is expected to more than double by the time it is fully developed.  At the moment, that milestone is due to be reached in 2018, but it is not yet known if the latest delays will affect that.  The current Doha International Airport is already handling about 20 million travellers per year which, in theory, is far greater than its capacity.  About 80% of today’s Doha passengers are travelling with Qatar Airways and the current airport’s over capacity is making it difficult for the airline to replicate its very high on-board service standards in the crowded terminal.  It is a tough market too, with Emirates via Dubai, and Etihad via Abu Dhabi offering customers strong alternative Gulf gateways.
The new airport is situated approximately 2.5 miles (4km) east of the current facility.  It has two runways; one of 15,912ft (4,850m), which is the longest commercial runway in the world and a second, which at 13,943ft (4,250m) is also amongst the longest in operation.  Either is capable of allowing a fully-loaded Airbus A380 to operate to any destination within its range without payload restrictions, making Hamad International the world’s first to enable unrestricted commercial operations for any commercial aircraft.  One of the most impressive statistics about the 2,200-hectare airport site is that approximately 60% of it is built on land reclaimed from the Arabian Gulf.  It is Qatar’s second major land reclamation project to be completed recently, as a major sea port has also been constructed.
The single terminal building, elements of which look similar to Hong Kong International Airport, will have 41 widebody aircraft contact gates, together with 430,556sq ft (40,000m2) of space devoted to retail facilities, passenger lounges, and multi-storey short-term and long-term parking.
Two particularly spectacular buildings on site are the new Emiri (Royal) Terminal complex for VIP flights and the mosque outside the main terminal building, the upper-half of which is built of glass.  In addition, Hamad International has a cargo handling complex and associated airline and airport ancillary buildings.  A 100-room airport hotel for transit passengers is situated inside the main terminal building.
Despite the delays, everything suggests that the new airport will be worth waiting for.
Phase One –
Completion by mid-2013
Two runways: 15,912ft (4,850m), and 13,943ft (4,250m) capable of taking a fully loaded Airbus A380 – the largest passenger aircraft in the world.
A 6,458,345 sq ft (600,000m2) three-storey terminal with 22 remote gates and 41 contact gates, six of which will cater specifically for the A380.  The terminal will have a capacity of 28 million passengers a year.
Over 430,556 sq ft (40,000m2) of retail facilities and passenger lounges.
An Aircraft Maintenance Centre with a hangar that can accommodate up to 13 aircraft of different types at any one time, including Airbus A380s, A330s, A340s, A320 Family, Boeing 777s, next generation Boeing 787s and A350s.
A cargo facility with a capacity of 1.4 million tonnes a year.  It will have 11 hardstand aircraft parking bays.
A general aviation terminal & hangar.
A courier and mail facility.
Three road interchanges to access the new airport from Ras Abu Aboud Road.
Final Phase – Beyond 2015
The addition of another 24 contact gates (total of 65); six of them will be A380 capable.
The further extension of the terminal building to 9,687,519sq ft (900,000m2) to handle 50 million passengers a year.