Despite hosting today’s oneworld event inside the new Hamad International Airport, which is soon to be the national carrier’s main hub, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker was unable to give any more details about a planned opening date for the much-delayed facility.
Instead, he referred journalists to comments made by the Transport Minister Jassim Al Sulaiti earlier this week, in which the official said the airport would open “early next year.”
HIA, a $15.5 billion airport project, was originally slated for completion in 2009. Two official opening dates have come and gone in the last two years: Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12), and April 1, 2013.
Journalists from the world’s media were, however, given a brief tour of HIA today. The facility aims to impress from the start, as the entire approach road is flanked by green gardens and palm trees.
Inside, there are high vaulted ceilings, suspended walkways, a waterfall and several art installations, including Urs Fischer’s Untitled (Lamp/Bear), a seven-meter tall bronze teddy bear with a lamp over its head.
Work still ongoing
For an airport that had been on the verge of opening to passengers last year, however, it didn’t feel totally ready. All retail outlets, except one coffee kiosk we saw, were covered in generic hoardings.
No signage for stores were visible, apart from the airport’s own coffee shop insignia, and when asked which food and beverage brands the airport would host, management told us they preferred the outlets to be a “surprise.”
There was also construction at an area marked out for Business and First Class check in, and construction hoardings covering the front of a business lounge. Possibly one of those at the center of a legal wrangle between HIA and Lindner Depa Interior (LDI), whose contract to fit out the lounges was terminated early last year.
Residents who’ve endured long waits at the current airport will, however, be cheered to hear about some of the airport’s vital statistics, including: 138 check-in counters; 34 passport control counters for economy passengers and 16 for Business and First; 41 gates with direct access to the aircraft (no more buses!); the ability to handle 19,500 bags per hour, and three times more parking than the current airport.
Airport management also said that they will be capable of handling flight transfers of only 30 minutes, an ambitious target for a building of this size.
Credit: Photos by Brian Candy