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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

An Inside Look at Qatar Airways Premium Terminal in Doha

Business Class Lounge Entrance in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal - Photo: Mal Muir - airlinereporter.com

Business Class Lounge Entrance in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

You’re flying business class to a faraway land. You’re scheduled for a five hour connection between your flights and this fills you with dread.  It is not quite long enough to leave the airport to explore and all you can think of is being trapped.  If you have a Business or First class ticket, flying Qatar Airways out of Doha, you have nothing to worry about.

Qatar Airways has something that no one else has at the Doha International Airport (DOH): their Premium Terminal.  When you fly to/from/through Doha in either First or Business Class you have access to not just a lounge, but a whole VIP terminal.

There are other airlines that have private terminals for their First Class guests (Lufthansa in Frankfurt for example) but Qatar is special; they offer this amenity to Business Class guests as well.

No Need to Carry your own bag, porters do it for you. Photo: Mal Muir - airlinereporter.com

No Need to Carry your own bag, porters do it for you. Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

If you are departing from Doha, you do not need to go to the main terminal first. As you enter the airport facility, you head off to the right and start your travel directly at the Premium Terminal.

From the very moment you arrive, the service begins.  You would normally need to drag your bags to check in and then worry about where to go, navigating your way through the large facilities, finding the right counters.  Not so here.

A porter will open the door for you, help you with your bags, even guide you up to a counter where you can sit down at a desk and the check in staff will get your boarding pass for you, without a hassle in the world.

Private Check In Desks in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal - Photo: Mal Muir - airlinereporter.com

Private Check In Desks in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal – Photo: Mal Muir / Airlinereporter.com

The staff will guide you towards the private immigration and security channels. You still have to go through the same process as everyone else in the airport, but it’s a little less crowded. I ended up going through during the morning rush hours and had to wait a few minutes… the shock and horror! Even though the service before security is nice, the real treat starts after security.

On the main level is the Duty Free shop and the gates for the flights. The lounge is located up on the second floor where additional staff is there to greet you. Once complete, those with Business Class seats head left and those with First Class take a right — but not so fast.

The second floor is host to the “lounge area” though it is not just a lounge — There are a number of facilities.  You have a cloak room, a games room and nursery for the kids, a smoking lounge (several of them dotted throughout the terminal) and even a clinic in case you’re not feeling well.  ATMs, phones and a lovely calming water feature are here as well.

Tired? Why not take a quick nap in the  Qatar Airways Premium Terminal - Photo: Mal Muir - airlinereporter.com

Tired? Why not take a quick nap in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal? – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

Once you enter the lounge, the real relaxation can begin.  Located around the lounge are all different areas of comfort depending on what you wish to do with your time.

If getting down to business is your thing, there are private little cubicles which are more stylish than your usual office. If you feel like a little snack and a relaxing seat while maybe enjoying an espresso… do not worry… the lounge has it covered.

If eating on a lounge chair is not your thing, there are also sit down tables. Just be weary that a big snack can make you feel tired.  There are comfy reclined seats, blanket and pillows to get you rested before your long flight.

Hungry? One of many food bars in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal - Photo: Mal Muir - airlinereporter.com

Hungry? One of many food bars in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

The food isn’t your typical lounge fare of cheese cubes and snack mix.  At breakfast you can have a hot breakfast of poached eggs on toast or even waffles with berries and whipped cream. If you want something a bit lighter there are cereal and pastry choices as well.

Of course, if you feel like a cocktail and maybe a decadent little dessert before your flight, it is there for you as well.  Whatever your mood or taste, I am sure you will be pleased.

One of the two Dining Areas in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal - Photo: Qatar Airways

One of the two Dining Areas in the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal – Photo: Qatar Airways

You probably don’t want to board your plane smelling ripe, so using one of the showers might be a great idea.

If you have a First Class ticket, you also get access to a full spa. What could be more relaxing than taking a soothing soak in a spa bath/Jacuzzi right before your flight?

Soon enough your time in the lounge will come to an end and you will need to board your flight. No need to keep checking your flight status, when it is time to board, a staff member will come around quietly announcing your departure.

Back at the bottom of the escalators is the “Gate Area.”   There are no rows of chairs here, no crowded area filled with pushing and fighting passengers. Instead there are only a row of counters and screens where employees will check your boarding pass and direct you to the buses waiting to take you to your plane.

This isn’t your typical bus either.  When you are ready, a porter helps you onboard the and will help you with your bags (because surely you bought a lot at the duty free store right?).

Once all the seats are filled the door is shut, and your airport drive begins as you are bused directly to the boarding stairs for your aircraft.  While economy board at the rear, me and the other business class passengers strolled up the forward steps.

It was now time to transition from an amazing ground-based experience to an airborne one on my Boeing 777-200LR flight back to the states (more on that soon).

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