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Exploring Qatar: A Tour of the New Doha International Airport

Imagine back to 2003 when the preparations for the Summer Olympics in Athens were underway. It was time that the Bush Campaign was back in full swing, the Concorde made its last revenue flight and it was also the same year that the Qatar government was developing the master plan for their new airport: Doha International Airport (DOH).  The airport has come a long way since then and is close to being fully complete.

Currently Doha Airport has no jet bridges and every single guest, no matter the class of ticket held,  is bused to the gate.  This isn’t the most efficient and means long minimum connect times, but it is only temporary.

The Outside of the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

The airport was scheduled to be fully operational later in 2013, but there have been construction delays and the official opening has been pushed back.

At present the terminal is approximately 97% complete, the runways are ready for use and most of the major infrastructure is complete. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and if you just cleaned the dust away, you would have an almost fully operating airport — you just wouldn’t be able to shop or eat just yet.

Going on a tour of the New Doha International Airport at the moment means dressing like a construction worker – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

The airport is built to accommodate 24 million passengers a year. The airport has 17 million meters (roughly 10,000 miles) of electrical cabling, 9000 phones, 3800 parking spots, two runways (which will allow 100 aircraft movements an hour), a cargo facility (able to handle 1.4 million tons of cargo annually) and a catering facility capable of  preparing 90,000 meals per day.  This is a huge investment for a relatively small nation in the Middle East.

With design elements taken from two world leading airports (Singapore Changi and Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok), DOH will be an amazing new facility that will allow the passengers to have a world leading experience.  Inside the terminal will be 25,000 square meters of retail, food and beverage space allowing travelers to get their shopping fix or grab a meal at a number of outlets between connections.

You should have ample time to go shopping at DOH. The new airport is designed to allow a 30 minute connection between flights; including the time required to disembark and re-board your next flight.  This is a staggering figure and one that is going to be a true test.  To compare, most professionals suggest you have almost four hours to connect between flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

What Airport in the Middle East would not be complete without a Mosque and this one a Fine Example - Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

What Airport in the Middle East would not be complete without a Mosque and this one a Fine Example – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

Qatar is a Muslim country, where a high majority of its travelers and workers are of Muslim faith.  This means that you would need some form of prayer facilities for them as the call to prayer happens five times a day (and is a good sign when you can hear it, that you know you’re in the middle east).  Right outside the main entrance to the airport facility is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Mosques I have seen.

The airport also offers a new cargo terminal and a new maintenance facility for Qatar Airways.  This impressively large building was essentially raised in one piece from the ground up and is so large that it can accommodate eight wide bodied aircraft at any one time.

The Amiri Terminal at the New Doha International Airport - Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

The Amiri Terminal at the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

What would Qatar’s new airport be without somewhere for the Amir of Qatar to spend some time?  He has to hop on board his “unconfirmed” 747-8I at some point right?  So the airport design also includes a new Amiri Terminal.  Again another stunningly beautiful facility, surrounded by water and palm trees.

There are many other VIPs who are expected to visit the airport and many of them have come to expect red carpet treatment.  Obviously it would take quite a bit of work to roll out a red carpet upon each arrival and departure, so the designers came up with a novel idea.  They created an air bridge that allows anyone to step off their aircraft onto a red carpet and right into a greeting ceremony.

No matter the height of the aircraft, it can be accommodated (although after clarification, they weren’t sure if it was A380 capable, but it is definitely 747 capable).  Not even a single step is required. Although it doesn’t look as cool, stepping off waving to the crowd then coming down your steps to the awaiting band, and yes there is a band stand there as well.

All of this high level of service is just the beginning. The airport has already been signed to expand further, adding more terminals, railway stations, metro links, and more facilities. DOH is expected to double in capacity in time for the 2022 Soccer World Cup to be held in Qatar.  Given all of this, this will truly be a fantastic new airport.

Disclaimer: Qatar Airways paid for the trip to Qatar, all opinions are my own.
This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

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