The smooth transition to a new airport shows a significant scale-up of capabilities whose trajectory Qatar will traverse in the years to come. Aptly called the new gateway to the world, Hamad International Airport completed the final leg of its phased opening yesterday with Qatar Airways and other carriers moving operations to the new facility, which claims to be at the forefront of innovation and luxury. Qatar Airways, which flies to 140 destinations across the world amid a rapidly expanding route network footprint, is known to follow a hub-and-spoke model that connects major world cities through Doha. With the new airport opening up completely, Qatar Airways will get more breathing space for its aircraft and equipment. The airline would now be in a better position to leverage its ‘connections-based’ model to maximise revenue and increase passenger volume. Hamad International Airport claims a capacity of 30 million passengers a year, to reach 50 million after 2015. The airport, according to authorities, has been designed to handle 8,700 passengers an hour.
Though the wait became somewhat stretched after the decision last year to delay the inauguration, it was not something that detracted from looking forward to a seamless transition. Amid the euphoria generated by the new facility, the convenience of the old airport and its contribution to the life in and around Doha has become history. One of the few airports in the world inside a city, Doha International Airport had acquired the image of the ‘airport-next-door’. It contributed to the leitmotif of the capital’s culture that embodies the scent of a varied diaspora.
No longer would one cross the ‘airport signal’ — as the junction of D-Ring Road and Airport Road is popularly called —for getting into a small facility and past a few check-in counters in a matter of minutes. No longer would those new to Doha gawk at aircraft rudders jutting above the boundary wall. And no longer will kids point out — with utmost delight —planes with their undercarriages down and landing lights on, coming to land at the city airport along the Doha-Wakra highway. What was once a Doha landmark like Berlin’s Tempelhof — the now-closed iconic pre-World War II airport — has folded up, wrapping valuable history into its portals.
The new facility has a futuristic design and is surrounded by attractive landscaping. Fountains and greenery announce to the traveller a world far removed from the arid terrain of the country. Hamad International Airport is one step in the direction of infrastructure development Qatar is eyeing for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
The old has yielded to the new, but it would have been befitting for the last aircraft taking off from Doha International Airport to get a ceremonial send-off. This would have honoured decades of service the airport rendered to the country during which it saw layers of history unfold.