Doha International Airport

Posted: 31 July 2007 | Akbar Al Baker, CEO Doha International Airport | No comments yet

Doha International Airport has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few years – particularly since 2005, with huge expansion to cope with the sharp rise in demand for air travel to, from and beyond Qatar.

Doha International Airport has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few years – particularly since 2005, with huge expansion to cope with the sharp rise in demand for air travel to, from and beyond Qatar.

The airport was built in the 1940s. Today, the facility caters for more than 10 million passengers annually, thanks largely to the rapid rise of national carrier Qatar Airways, which handles 80 per cent of the traffic. More than 10 million passengers are set to fly with Qatar Airways during the 12-month period ending 2007.

With unprecedented growth of the national airline, averaging 35 per cent year on year, the need to expand the existing airport has been a priority. Such expansion has seen passenger capacity increase to 4.2 million, 5.6 million and 8 million passengers per annum respectively in recent years.

Doha International Airport has seen more than US$300 million pumped into expanding the departures hall, arrivals area, transit lounge, duty free shopping, immigration and baggage claim areas, creating additional aircraft parking space and building a unique US$90 million passenger departures terminal dedicated to Qatar Airways’ first and business class passengers.

Development of the existing airport has been running in parallel with the construction of the new Doha International Airport, a US$5.5 billion project being built in phases and designed to handle a peak annual capacity of 50 million passengers by the time the airport is fully operational in 2015. With greater space and greater passenger facilities, this unique facility promises to be eye-catching for its unique design and architectural beauty.

The first phase of the new airport is scheduled to open in 2009, when the decades-old existing airport will close its doors and all flights and operations will be transferred to the new facility.

In the meantime, Doha International Airport continues to grow abundantly in all directions.
Doha International Airport has felt the challenges of a growing number of passengers, more aircraft movements and additional cargo with Qatar Airways and other carriers demanding extra space.

Trying to make changes to the airport design without inconveniencing passengers and hampering the flow has been a challenge that we faced and overcame successfully. Although parking in front of the departure and arrival terminals was at times a little congested, on the whole we managed to keep all the facilities fully functional throughout the renovation process. At no time was there any disruption to security procedures, immigration, nor were flight schedules disrupted.

Prior to the expansion, Doha International Airport had 18 aircraft bays. Today, the number has more than doubled to 42 and this is still short of the ultimate figure to cope with the large amount of traffic to and from Qatar.

Apron space has been at a premium at the airport. We have created extra aircraft parking bays to the side of the new Premium Terminal and developed significant new parking space across the runway.

In the main terminal, the number of check-in counters has increased by 50 per cent from 40 to 60, while two baggage belts have been added to the previous three. Also, car parking facilities have been improved with new shaded areas to accommodate around 2,000 vehicles.

To cope with the increase in cargo business, arising from the rapid expansion of the Qatar Airways’ fleet, the cargo division has seen a dramatic expansion, with bigger warehouse facilities at the airport.

The 40 per cent increase in space includes a new import and export warehouse, cold storage and freezer facilities.

Easing passenger congestion has been the focus of all the improvements at the airport and new technology is paving the way for procedures to be simplified.

Many airlines are adopting electronic ticketing, otherwise known as paperless tickets, to help speed up check-in processes. Qatar Airways will have its entire network operating with paperless ticketing by the end of 2007.

SITA, the information and telecommunications provider, is supplying new check-in systems at the airport this year with its new integrated platform serving 200 workstations in the main airport terminal, together with the Premium Terminal.

More than 30 airlines currently flying in and out of Doha International Airport are able to connect to their host systems via SITA’s new AirportConnect CUTE system.

The overall objective is to create a common use platform, which allows IT infrastructure to be used by multiple customers and partners. We want to ensure that Doha International Airport has an advanced integrated communication infrastructure, which offers high levels of support for airlines using its facilities.

With the dramatic growth of Qatar’s aviation industry, the airport infrastructure has also had to keep up with the pace.

We are looking to the future and preparations are well underway to move to a brand new home in 2009 when the first phase of the new Doha International Airport is due to open.

Construction work is well underway as Qatar prepares to reshape itself as the region’s future aviation hub.

Situated approximately four kilometres east of the existing airport, the new facility is one of the world’s first airports to be designed and built specifically for the Airbus double- decker A380 – the largest passenger aircraft ever built.

The 2,200-hectare airport site includes two runways and is largely built on reclaimed land from the Arabian Gulf. Work started on the project in January 2005 and the first phase is due to be completed in 2009 to handle an initial capacity of 12 million passengers per year.

Soon after in the same year, we expect phase two to be ready and capable of handling 24 million passengers a year, with the ultimate capacity in phase three in 2015 of around 50 million.

The airport will have 80 aircraft contact gates, excellent retail facilities and exclusive lounges for premium travellers as well as an airport hotel. There will also be a dedicated Emiri (royal) terminal complex to handle VIP flights.

All in all, the transformation of the aviation sector here in Qatar is an exciting time for the country, the national airline, the airport and the tourism industry.

Akbar Al Baker

Akbar Al Baker was born in Doha. He is a graduate in Economics and Commerce and has worked at various levels in the Civil Aviation Directorate before his appointment as Qatar Airways’ CEO in 1997.

Mr. Al Baker is chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority and, through his role, has been instrumental in putting Qatar on the global tourism map.

He is also spearheading the development of the New Doha International Airport, which opens in phases from 2009.

A highly motivated individual, he has been a successful businessman in Doha for more than 25 years, holds a private pilot license, and is also CEO of several divisions of Qatar’s national airline – these being Qatar Airways Holidays, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Duty Free Company, Doha International Airport, Qatar Distribution Company and Qatar Aircraft Catering Company.

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