Passenger numbers and cargo shipments passing through Doha International Airport (DIA) continue to grow year-on-year, putting the already busy airport under increasing pressure, new figures show.
Nearly 2 million (1,973,823) passengers traveled to and from the airport in February, a 12.5 percent increase from the same period last year. Cargo traffic also increased by 12.7 percent year-on-year, and aircraft movements were also up by 7 percent.
These figures echo similar statistics released last month for January, which was a record month for passenger traffic at the airport. A total of 2,191,148 passengers passed through DIA that month, an increase of nearly 18 percent from the previous year.
The impact of these record numbers are certainly being felt by passengers during busy periods, with parking facilities at the arrivals terminal and passport control at arrivals coming under particular strain.
Last summer, for example, airport officials advised passengers to arrive four hours before their flights to accommodate expected queues and delays.
Officials also acknowledge that the DIA has been operating beyond capacity. Speaking to Doha News in November, executive vice-president Patrick Muller said:
“This airport has reached the end of its lifespan. We’re just trying to manage the operations as good as we can.”
He added that the airport’s declared capacity is 29 aircraft movements (takeoffs and landings) an hour. But DIA typically operates at between 35 and 38 aircraft movements an hour, including non-commercial operations.
The growth of Qatar’s national carrier, Qatar Airways, has led to a need for the continued expansion of facilities at the current airport, as the country awaits the opening of the much-delayed Hamad International Airport (HIA).
DIA has seen the addition of new gates and more aircraft parking bays. And in January, it launched a new mobile app to give passengers more information about facilities within the airport, a sign that management does not expect to close the airport to passenger traffic in the short term.
HIA is now expected to partly open by the middle of 2014, considerably later than the January 2014 date signaled by the transport minister last year. Two official opening dates for HIA have come and gone in the last three years: Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12), and April 1, 2013.
In a statement in January, the chairman of the Hamad International Airport (HIA) steering committee Abdul Aziz Mohammad Al-Noaimi said that the airport was now “on track for a phased opening by mid-year 2014.”
Despite this, no firm opening date for the airport’s expected soft launch has been set.
A spokeswoman from the HIA steering committee told us today that they have “no new update” to give us about the planned opening schedule.