Which developments helped HIA become the fourth-best airport in the world?
2018 was an interesting and successful year for HIA, fostering a culture of hospitality and innovation across all operations and bringing a new dimension to travel through unique shopping, dining, leisure, and convenience. We have expanded and diversified the F&B portfolio at HIA by introducing new offerings that respond to the diverse needs of the modern traveler. We have also added more entertainment options, with a state-of-the-art golf simulator, which was inaugurated at the Oryx Airport Hotel as well as videogame consoles at Concourse C. The airport has successfully completed its first phase of the Smart Airport program and is currently testing the second phase, which will revolutionize the way passengers experience their journey at HIA. The second phase of the program utilizes facial biometric recognition technology at key passenger touchpoints. This will improve the speed at which customers cross these touchpoints, while simultaneously providing them with a seamless and enjoyable travel experience. HIA further improved its transportation services by adding two more transfer areas, bringing the total to four, which has increased its security screening capacity and reduced queuing time for its transfer passengers to under five minutes per passenger. HIA ranked the second best in the world in terms of on-time performance, with 85% of its flights operating on time according to OAG.
What has been the role of the airport in ensuring the appropriate development of the Qatari economy?
As an integral and vital part of the infrastructure, HIA has maintained a steady growth rate the past few years, in parallel with the local economy, which is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The airport stimulates the local economy by transporting goods and people. HIA handled 2.2 million tons of cargo in 2018, with an 8.4% YoY increase. We are constructing a new cargo terminal that will increase the capacity handled to 3 million tons per year. HIA served 34.5 million passengers in 2018, with more growth projected for 2019.
How is the Smart Airport program changing the overall passenger experience?
The Smart Airport program utilizes the latest innovations in the field to support HIA's goal of transforming the passenger journey. The program gives passengers the option to eliminate the need to use travel documents at various touch points by combining a passenger's passport, flight ticket, and facial biometric data into a single token that will take passengers from check-in to boarding. E-gate registered users will have their immigration process automated as well, which will greatly improve efficiency, passenger autonomy, and the overall experience. The first phase, which concluded earlier in 2019, implemented the self-check in and self-service bag-drop kiosks, which are currently fully operational. At present, HIA has initiated the trial of the second phase of its Smart Airport program, which includes testing biometric capabilities at self-check-in, self-bag drop, pre-immigration, and self-boarding gates. The trial is expected to end in the upcoming months followed by a period of implementation. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that international travelers spent USD776 billion in 2018 alone, and the aviation global market is expected to double every decade. The projected increase in demand is a tremendous opportunity for Qatar, especially considering that 80% of the world's population can be reached within six hours.
What is your outlook for the year ahead?
We are looking to expand our operational capacity to 53 million passengers. We have to overcome challenges that eliminate bottlenecks and improve overall efficiency. The airport's metro station will also be operational shortly, which will bring convenience to many passengers. Qatar will be hosting the 2019 World Athletics Championships, which will help us prepare for the large influx of fans anticipated for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.