Updated at 2:50 pm with more details from this morning’s press conference, and at 4:20pm with photos from Ray Toh.
Doha’s much anticipated, much delayed new airport, Hamad International (HIA), has finally welcomed its first passengers.
At close to noon today, Fly Dubai flight FZ015 from Dubai touched down at the terminal 45 minutes behind schedule, signaling the beginning of passenger operations at the airport.
About half an hour earlier, a ceremonial Qatar Airways flight carrying VIPs also flew into the new airport, after a very short flight from neighboring Doha International Airport.
The aircraft was greeted by two water cannons, assembled dignitaries and members of the press.
Although the first aircraft to land at HIA today, this flight was not the first aircraft to fly into the airport – HIA has seen numerous test landings, including the high profile visit of the Airbus A350 in February.
‘Challenges’ in construction
Officials from the $15.5 billion HIA and operating airline Qatar Airways held a press conference this morning to mark the opening.
When asked by Doha News what had been going on at the airport since last year’s thwarted soft launch on April 1st, the national carrier’s CEO Akbar Al Baker said that “certain issues about international standards which had been raised by authorities over the last year had to be addressed,” and that these had taken longer to resolve than expected.
“But, we should forget about what happened in the past, and now look to the future,” he added.
Although he did not comment specifically on reasons for the repeated delaying of the airport’s opening, he did say that Civil Defense had “worked hard” to “raise security standards at the airport.”
HIA officials also gave some more details about plans for the DIA once all commercial passenger traffic moves across to the new airport next month.
Journalists were told that the committee “has some ideas” to convert some of the area – a key piece of land near the center of the city – into “grassy areas and roads.”
Gulf Helicopters and the Qatar Aeronautical College would also use the runway and facilities, the officials said. No specific details about the fates of the existing departure and arrival terminals were revealed.
Reaction to the official opening has been enthusiastic, as residents look forward to an easier, smoother travel experience.
These VIPs are the first passengers to arrive at a Doha Airport and not need steps and a bus or car! pic.twitter.com/KsC9SBWB5k
— Victoria Scott (@Toryscott) April 30, 2014
Congratulations to #qatarairways and the opening of the new #Doha #HIA. #finally #betterlatethannever
— BooWiki (@BooWiki) April 30, 2014
Hamad International in Doha opens. Amazing airport! QA will experience phenomenal growth from #HIA. @QatarHappening pic.twitter.com/dokq7zcLU9
— Dale Whitice (@airlaw57) April 30, 2014
GOODBYE extra 3 hours of traveling to reach aircraft from airport-NO ONE EVER ENJOYED YOU!! #Doha @dohanews #HamadInternationalAirport
— inDELG (@in_delg) April 30, 2014
Today’s launch is restricted to only 10 airlines. These are:
- Biman Bangladesh Airlines
- Fly Dubai
- Air Arabia
- Iran Air
- Air India Express
- Yemenia Yemen Airlines
- Pakistan International Airlines
- Nepal Airlines
- Syrian Airlines
- Pegasus Airlines
All other airlines, including Qatar Airways, are scheduled to move over to the new airport on May 27.
Here’s what the departures board looked like first thing this morning:
We're at #HIA for its official opening this am. Here's the departures board – Qatar Airways ceremonial flight first pic.twitter.com/rl6yjUTVqU
— Doha News (@dohanews) April 30, 2014
Although HIA is now open to passengers, it’s clear that there’s still some way to go before the airport’s 80 shops and 30 restaurants and cafes are ready to receive customers.
At present, there are only two operational cafes – one in the check-in area, and one next to the departure gates. Additionally, premium passengers (and some card holders) have use of the new Oryx lounge, which economy passengers can also enter for QR 140.
The only retail outlets currently open belong to Qatar Duty Free. Large areas clearly allocated to retail remain covered in generic HIA hoardings. It’s unclear how many of these outlets will be ready to open in time for May 27th, when all of DIA’s remaining flights will move over to the facility.
However, despite the current lack of retail and dining diversions, passengers departing from the terminal this morning appeared to be enjoying the lack of queues at passport control and security, and check in areas also seemed to be functioning well.
Doha News spoke to a group of Nepalese passengers eagerly awaiting a flight to Kathmandu this morning. They said that they were impressed by the new airport, which they found to be “much better” than DIA.
Meanwhile, passengers landing at the airport have also reported a smooth experience, although some told Doha News that their friends and relatives had been late picking them up due to the unfamiliar road layout around the airport.
Passengers arriving at one airport and departing from another during the changeover period will be able to use free transfer buses being laid on by the airport authorities.
The HIA was originally supposed to be completed in 2009. It has since missed several opening deadlines, including Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12) and April 1, 2013, when the launch was scrapped only an hour before a passenger plane was set to land.
The exact reason for these delays remains unclear, although last year, Civil Defense safety approvals were not met.
The new airport represents a significant increase in capacity over the existing Doha International Airport, which has been under strain during peak travel periods.
Passenger traffic through Doha just keeps on rising, as the city is becoming an increasingly important aviation hub. In March, for example, 13.8 percent more people traveled through the airport than in the same time last year.
Mabrook…Alf mabrook..really excited now…will go in the evening 🙂
God, I truly did hate that bus ride. Worst part of the 30-hour flight.
Agree…but no Doha bus journey was as bad as Dubai.
I have to say a 15-20 min bus ride, is better than a 15-20 min walk inside any of the large airports. I bet if you are at one of the furthest contact gates now, it will still take you 15 minutes to get to immigration. Only difference is we’ll have to walk it. My biggest issue with the buses has been that the AC are blasting in the summer and it becomes uncomfortably cold.
I think we really can stop speculating now when it will actually open.
We can still speculate as to when the restaurants will open so we can get a feed.
Its amazing how much people moan and complain about qatar, but when something good happens, there’s radio silence! Grow up people
Great news.. Congratulations and thanks to every one who involved in the NDIA..
It’s HIA now… not India.
NDIA- New Doha International Airport…
I don’t think you get it.
Are restaurants and shops open? If we’re not boarding a flight, can we go inside and look around?
Are you from Baladiya?
No. Strange question.
Excellent well done Qatar.
Great news, Congratulations Qatar !
Are these cafe’s just that – or is this a politically correct term as some of these will also be bars and serve alcohol. The same way that the more expensive brunch packages are served with ‘special beverages’.
Basically, can I get a beer before my flight or is the airport still going to be dry like DIA?
Pretty sure it will be dry just like the airports in the rest of the GCC. I wish it was otherwise.
There are bars in other GCC airports, like the Irish Village bar inside Dubai Airport for instance.
Is this the new Airport in Dubai or the old one? I must have missed it if it’s at the old one.
A little bit of Googling – here is a list (probably incomplete) of all the bars that serve alcohol to the general public in GCC airports:
The Irish Village
Pint 19 within the Safar restaurant.
In Terminal 3 there is a Wine Bar
The Irish House
2 bars – Habara Sky Bar and the Irish Lounge
2 bars – Bill Bentley
That’s useful information to keep in mind. Let’s hope for one here as well.
It’s hardly a controversial notion. I can understand that in countries where alcohol is itself banned (Kuwait and Saudi for instance) there won’t be bars. But if in Doha airport you can eat during the day throughout Ramadan, I can’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be a bar.
Although the dirty little secret in Doha airport is that you could always just pay to go inside the Oryx lounge, and then drink for ‘free’, during certain hours.
I’m going to miss those bus rides. I use to like looking at all the parked aircrafts.
Good Old Days…
Finally ! Looking forward to my first flight.
Could they not have diverted a scheduled Qatar Airways flight to the new airport to be the first rather than giving that honour to one from Dubai?
Pity with all the money spent they couldn’t have got some proper modern seating for the waiting areas. Those ones look like the same found in airports around the world.
Bitter bitter you… Sad
I am very happy that the new airport is open and can’t wait to use it in the near future, but being one that doesn’t often have lounge access, I wish that someone could come up with a better and friendlier design for waiting areas, rather than the same rows of seats.
As for QA not being the first to land, it is a pity as would have been special to have been on that flight when the Captain announced that they were the first scheduled flight into the airport.
What would you suggest, lie flat seats? Barcaloungers?
I’m sure the FD passengers were feeling special.
For 140qr, you can have access to the lounge. Cheaper than many other airlines. Delta wants $50 a person.
Get a QNB first credit card and you get free access. Although they tried to charge me 40 USD for a small child last time…told them ahh no, the child will eat one bit of flat bread and a bottle of water hardly 40 USD worth…
QA was the first to land at HIA…. didn’t you read “About half an hour earlier, a ceremonial Qatar Airways flight carrying
VIPs also flew into the new airport, after a very short flight from
neighboring Doha International Airport”… so I guess ur moaning is about nuttin really????
It was a Qatar Airways “ceremonial flight” that was the first.
It was a flight from the old airport, it flew over the offshore oil fields, and came back to HIA.
Yes, I know that. I was replying to wee_johnnie who thought the honor went to Fly Dubai.
Waaaaaa..? They were actually selling the tickets??????? I thought it was a bunch of invited VIPs.. 😉
Don’t you think that there is a pattern in choosing the 10 airlines that will operate in a first place? It’s like they’ve chosen those that “don’t matter” if something bad happens…hmm..just sayin…
Nope.. they’ve chosen the flights that have only the Economy class passengers, so they still have time to take care of last minute glitches before the Business Class passengers come in, scheduled from May 27th.
In some of your photos there seems to be a bunch of random people down on the tarmac that are not wearing standard safety equipment. In most international airports that would be a clear breach of both health & safety and security protocols. Will this be an ongoing feature of the new airport?