THE REALITY NOW LANDING…

Qatar 2020 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS

For a would-be isolated country, Qatar is ricocheting between achievements and accolades, some literally sky-high.

When optimists get served lemons, it is time for lemonade, and so too with Qatar, which has responded to the blockade with plans to expand the annual capacity of Hamad International Airport (HIA) from 30 million to 50 million passengers in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. That event is the preeminent catalyst of wider economic advancement and ambitious tourism targets. With tenders for what is now the third HIA expansion phase already floated, Qatar will also boast an Airport City set to become an investment magnet, especially with foreign nationals' real estate purchases now a much juicier proposition.

What More can we Say?
HIA arose in response to Qatar's meteoric rise in recent years, whereby Doha International Airport had come to operate at almost double its capacity. The new 41-gate HIA, built at a cost of USD15.5 billion, has garnered countless plaudits for design and performance since its opening in 2014. For one, HIA—considered a five-star airport—was ranked fourth-best airport in the world at the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2019. To that add Best Airport in the Middle East for the fifth consecutive year and Best Staff Service in the Middle East for the fourth. These achievements also reflect those of flag carrier Qatar Airways, respected as a superior airline long before the country's regional travails. Indeed, Qatar Airways has strategically looked beyond its geographical neighborhood, having opened 19 new routes to Europe and Asia over the past two years. Small wonder then that it accounts for around 90% of the current 35 million passengers per year handled at the airport.
Fertile Growth
The project has two phases, where Phase A will connect Concourse D and E with a central concourse of additional gates by the World Cup year. Phase B will follow at a later date, raising annual capacity to just shy of 70 million passengers through an extension of existing Concourses D and E. Infrastructure aside, HIA will soon delight travelers with an indoor tropical garden to contrast the surrounding desert landscape. It will be located airside, given that 80% of travelers use HIA as a transit hub and therefore do not dwell. At 10,000sqm, the garden will become the focal point of HIA's enhancement program, boasting flora from sustainable forests on three continents. Meanwhile, an additional 11,720sqm dedicated to shopping and food is also on the way.
On the logistics side, HIA's freight processing capacity is earmarked to more than double from 1.5 million tons of cargo per year to 3.2 million tons. By 2023, a 323,000-sqm facility will advance Qatar's transcontinental cargo hub pedigree.

Not just Commercial Health
HIA's fourth emergency exercise, Oryx Golf 2019, staged in November, took a new direction. Rather than simulating an aviation-specific event, the scenario envisaged of a Qatar Airways inbound flight from a nation identified by the WHO as having an Ebola outbreak. And adding health to safety, the airport opened the Shafallah Center Lounge at Concourse C to facilitate travel for passengers with a range of special needs, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Where HIA is concerned, necessity clearly has been the mother of invention.