A record 8.4 million passengers passed through Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) this summer, a 23 percent jump from the same time last year, newly released statistics show.
Traveler traffic in the third quarter of 2015 peaked in August, after more than 3 million travelers used the airport, with July and September also registering high figures of around 2.7 million each.
Aircraft take-offs and landings also increased accordingly, with a total of 55,186 being logged in the three months, up 19 percent from the same period last year.
Although the summer is traditionally a busy time of year for air travel, figures from earlier this year also reflected record passenger levels, at 2.6 million in January and 2.3 million in February.
If passenger figures continue at a similar rate for the next nine months, the airport could reach – or possibly exceed – its planned capacity of 30 million passengers a year.
Well aware that the airport need more space, management is overseeing a number of expansion projects to increase the airport’s capacity to 53 million travelers by 2020, ahead of an expected surge of passengers for the 2022 World Cup.
Plans include doubling the size of the current passenger terminal by adding new check-in counters, lounges, restaurants and boarding gates, as well as building a connection to the Doha Metro. This work is expected to be completed in the next five years.
And earlier this month, HIA announced that it is set to spend QR277 million (US$76.1 million) on work to reclaim land to build new taxiways on the northwest tip of the property so that the airport can handle more flights.
That project is due for completion in 2017.
In a statement, airport COO Badr Mohammed Al Meer attributed the steady increase in passenger traffic at the airport to the growth of Qatar’s national carrier, as well as the addition of several new airlines to the airport’s portfolio:
“We partially owe this phenomenal increase in our operations to the increased frequency of several of our patron airlines’ weekly flights from Hamad International Airport, and we have also had several new airlines commence operations at HIA,” he said.
New airlines operating to Doha include Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Jet and Royal Air Maroc, which began three flights a week from Casablanca to Doha in October.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways continues to expand at a rapid clip, with eight new destinations added this year and seven more planned for 2016, as well as an increase in frequency on a number of routes.
New cargo terminal
Qatar Airways’ passenger flights are only part of the story. Last month, the airline’s cargo arm was recognized by IATA as the third largest international cargo airline in the world.
Qatar Airways Cargo serves more than 190 destinations, using a mix of cargo-only aircraft and cargo holds on passenger flights.
This network is expected to grow as the airline adds more cargo aircraft to its fleet, including eight new Boeing 777 freighters that are currently on order.
To help deal with further expansion of the cargo business at HIA, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker announced in October that a second, larger cargo terminal was planned for the airport, upping HIA’s annual cargo capacity from 1.4 million tonnes to 4.4 million tonnes of cargo a year.
The new terminal is expected to be completed by 2018.