New April 30 soft launch date set for Hamad International Airport

HIA

Brian Candy/Flickr

After a series of delays, Qatar’s new state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport is expected to begin passenger operations at the end of this month.

A spokesman for the existing Doha International Airport (DIA) confirmed the move to Doha News this morning, saying more information would be available later today or on Sunday.

Circular

Facebook

So far, it appears that budget carriers will be the first to operate out of HIA, according to a circular issued to 10 airlines yesterday by Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority. The note, which has been passed around on Facebook, reads:

“Kindly be advised with effect from 11am onwards on 30th April 2014 all your flights in Doha will be landing at the new Hamad International Airport.”

It is addressed to managers at the following airlines:

  • Biman Bangladesh Airlines
  • Fly Dubai
  • Air Arabia
  • Iran Air
  • Air India Express
  • Yemenia Yemen Airlines
  • Pakistan International Airlines
  • Nepal Airlines
  • Syrian Airlines
  • Pegasus Airlines

HIA officials and the airlines listed were not immediately available for comment.

Screenshot of FAA website.

Screenshot of FAA website.

But a notice to airmen (NOTAM) was posted on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s website yesterday, under HIA’s airport code OTHH. It reads:

OPENING OF HAMAD INTL AIRPORT WILL BE DELAYED TIL 30 APR 2014 AT 0359 UTC. 09 APR 21:05 2014 UNTIL 30 APR 03:59 2014. CREATED: 09 APR 21:07 2014

An April 30 opening jives with previous statements made by the CEO of Qatar Airways, which is operating the airport.

In February, Akbar Al Baker said HIA would open to travelers by the second quarter of this year, and that low-cost airliners would be the first to move to the new airport:

“The move will be two phases … We will move operations overnight and would require the current airport operations to be shut for about six to eight hours.”

Delays

The $15.5 billion HIA was supposed to be completed in 2009, and has missed several opening deadlines since then, including on Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12) and April 1, 2013, when the launch was scrapped an hour before a plane was set to land there.

The exact reason for the delays remains unclear, though last year, Civil Defense safety approvals were not met. More recently, officials have suggested that the airport’s premium facilities and lounges were awaiting completion.

Meanwhile, DIA has been struggling to accommodate an ever-growing passenger load. Some 2 million people have been traveling to and from the airport each month, straining parking facilities and passport control.

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