Al Baker: Qatar airport expansion to be completed within three years

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Architects are finalizing design plans for an expansion of the recently opened Hamad International Airport passenger terminal, according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

The airline executive told Doha News yesterday that he expected British architect Sir Norman Foster to wrap up his work “over the next few months.”

The architect’s firm, Foster + Partners, also designed the new passenger terminal that is being built at Kuwait International Airport.

Once the design is set, construction firms would be invited to bid on the extension project, which should be completed within the next three years, Al Baker added.

Chantelle D'mello

The final phase of the airport would effectively increase the size of the passenger terminal by 50 percent, enlarging it to roughly 900,000 square meters, according to details released by the airport earlier this year.

The expansion project also includes plans to add 24 new airplane gates directly attached to the terminal, bringing the total to 65. That’s in addition to the 22 existing “remote gates” on the tarmac that require buses to bring passengers to the terminal.

The expansion would effectively increase the airport’s capacity by two-thirds, to 50 million travelers annually.

Air passenger traffic in Qatar has climbed rapidly in recent years, growing 10 percent or more annually to reach 23.27 million in 2013.

The lineup for taxis at Hamad International Airport shortly after midnight early Saturday morning.

Peter Kovessy

The lineup for taxis at Hamad International Airport shortly after midnight early Saturday morning.

HIA appears to have accommodated this month’s Eid holiday rush without issue.

For many travelers, it was a pleasant contrast to last year, when traffic gridlock around the old Doha International Airport forced some passengers to abandon their rides and walk with their luggage to the terminal to avoid missing their flights.

This year, there were few reports of backups at check-in or immigration counters at the start of the holiday.

Passengers arriving in Qatar late on Friday were greeted with a 20-minute taxi queue that wrapped around half of the sidewalk outside the arrivals area, but a non-stop stream of Mowasalat cabs co-ordinated by multiple on-site supervisors kept the line moving.

Saudi ties

Al Baker made his remarks about HIA’s expansion during a Sunday press conference to announce Qatar Airways’ sponsorship of the Al-Ahli Football Club in Saudi Arabia for the next three seasons.

Fahd bin Khaled bin Abdullah, chairman of Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli Football Club (left) and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker display the team's new jersey design.

Qatar Airways

Fahd bin Khaled bin Abdullah, chairman of Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli Football Club (left) and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker display the team's new jersey design.

Saudi Arabia is already a major market for Qatar Airways, which operates 86 flights to the neighboring Gulf state weekly.

The country’s importance to the airline will grow further in the new year when it launches one of two new domestic carriers in the Kingdom, Al Maha Airways.

The new airline will use a fleet of Airbus A320-200 planes sporting the Qatar Airways oryx logo, painted in green rather than the traditional maroon to match Saudi Arabia’s national colors.

Al Maha Airways will initially operate between Jeddah and Riyadh before expanding to additional destinations within that country.

Qatar Airways and Bahrain-based Gulf Air received approvals to operate domestic services in Saudi Arabia in late 2012 and were initially expected to start flying earlier this year.

The launch date has been pushed back several times over concerns about price caps for domestic flights and fuel subsidies for the kingdom’s own airlines and, later, regulatory delays.

In May, Qatar Airways said it expected Al Maha would enter service by the end of 2014. However, a press release issued Sunday said the new airline would begin operating “in the New Year.”

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