DOHA: Qatar’s long-awaited Hamad International Airport (HIA), the world’s newest aviation hub, opened yesterday partially for commercial operations with 10 budget airlines, including flydubai, Air India express and Nepal Airlines shifting to the new airport.
The full operation, with all the other airlines, including national carrier Qatar Airways, is scheduled from May 27.
Commercial operations at the QR55bn plus airport began with flydubai’s flight number FZ015 from Dubai touching down at the new airport at around noon.
However, a Qatar Airways inaugural flight was the first to officially land on the East Runway of HIA carrying VIPs from the neighbouring Doha International Airport (DIA) at around 11am.
The aircraft was greeted with traditional salute by two water cannons of Qatar Civil Aviation Authority’s Rescue Fire Fighting Services.
The dignitaries on board included the Minister of Transport H E Jassim Seif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, Abdul Aziz Mohammad Al Noaimi, Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority as well as the NDIA Steering Committee, Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, and other members of the steering committee.
The aircraft was welcomed by a host of dignitaries, senior officials of the airport in the presence of a large number of representatives from the local and international media.
The operation began with nearly 40 counters, 20 each for entry and exit of passengers. Of the 138 check-in counters and 50 passport control desks, 40 are currently operational, and the remaining are expected to open later this month.
The other airlines which are currently operating from the new airport include PIA, Yemenia (Yemen Airways), Pegasus Airlines, Syrian Air, Iran Air, airarabia and Biman (Bangladesh Airlines).
The inaugural flight landing was followed by a press conference held at the HIA passenger terminal to mark the soft launch of the state-of-the-art airport, which will be handling an estimated 50 million passengers annually after the completion of the final phase.
“HIA is a world-class aviation hub purpose-built to cater to rapidly growing aviation and passenger needs of the 21st century,” said Al Noaimi. “In fact, its capacity will be 30 million passengers (per year) which is more than the initial plan. Initial capacity was expanded to accommodate the increased transit growth in Qatar over the course of the past decade,” he added. Once fully operational, HIA will be able to accommodate up to 70 million passengers annually, said Al Noami.
HIA and Airport City (together comprising the NDIA project) span 29 sq km, 60 percent on land reclaimed from the sea. The project includes 100 buildings of various purposes. The Passenger Terminal features a massive internal area of 600,000 sq metres and has three concourses and 33 contact gates, which will subsequently be increased to five concourses and 65 contact gates, including eight for the A380, in the final build-out.
Once fully open, the terminal will feature 16 lounges, 26 art installations, more than 100 food and retail outlets, a transit hotel, a swimming pool, a luxury spa, squash courts and a four-storey catering facility that is one of the largest in the world. The on-site public mosque can accommodate 500 worshippers at prayer time.
“The launch of the new airport represents the fulfillment of the longstanding vision of the Father Emir, H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, which was brought to fruition by the Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani,” said Al Noaimi. “HIA will be a source of pride and joy for all people of Qatar for many decades to come. It will deliver a memorable experience to all passengers that will travel through its gates; an experience that reflects Qatar’s status and importance on the world travel and tourism map.”