Hamad International Airport offers new impetus to Qatar

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Doha’s swanky new Hamad International Airport (HIA) sets new standards in the aviation industry, airport architecture, passenger experience and cargo movement. HIA is a vital element of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, which sets out the roadmap for a unique national transition from reliance on petrochemical revenues to a diverse, knowledge-based economy. In an interview to The STAT Trade Times, Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways Group, talks about the momentum HIA offers to Qatar’s historic development as a nation, promising an exponential increase in the country’s capacity to handle international movements of people, goods, capital, knowledge and technology.

Give us a sense of the investment in the creation of the new airport and what is its current passenger and cargo capacity and to what levels can this be scaled up to? May 27, 2014 marked a historic day as all operations from the old Doha International Airport were successfully transferred to Hamad International Airport (HIA). Uncompromised functionality paired with functional beauty were the key drivers of the magnificent architecture that today houses a state-of-the-art airport, setting new standards in the aviation industry, airport architecture and design quality. A workforce of 23,000 invested over 160 million hours to design and build an undulating structure resembling the gentle waves of the Arabian Gulf taking passengers gracefully from landside to airside, using building materials sourced from 40 different countries around the world. In its first phase, the airport will have an annual capacity of 30 million passengers, with three out of five concourses now open at HIA – A, B and C. HIA will almost double its capacity from 30 million to 50 million annually with the addition of two further concourses – D and E. The 55,000 square metre Cargo warehouse currently operates 1.4 million tonnes of cargo per year and can handle 5,700 shipments simultaneously. The new facility is designed to sustain future growth and its ambitious plans aim to increase overall cargo capacity by 75 percent. Upon completion of the second terminal, HIA cargo will have a full capacity for processing 2.5 million tonnes of cargo per year, making it almost the largest cargo terminal in the world. HIA is designed to support and sustain Qatar’s historic development as a nation, promising an exponential increase in Qatar’s capacity to handle international movements of people, goods, capital, knowledge and technology. It is a vital element of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, which sets out the roadmap for a unique national transition from reliance on petrochemical revenues to a diverse, knowledge-based economy.

What are some of the new infrastructural innovations introduced at the new cargo terminal in HIA? The transition to HIA was a huge and successful undertaking that began when cargo operations first commenced at HIA on December 1, 2013. The new Cargo facility successfully incorporates warehouse spaces, automated systems/retrieval Systems, a mezzanine, offices and shops, as well as boasting 11 wide-body aircraft standing bays and 42 loading docks. With an additional 31 landside truck-loading facilities, it enables the swift and efficient transfer of cargo in and out of Qatar. We also now use advanced scanning technology to ensure the complete safety and security of the facility, its staff and cargo. As such, our new cargo facility at HIA is at the forefront of our developments. With one of the most sophisticated cargo terminals operating in the industry, HIA is a platform for expanding our global freight business, enabling us to provide seamless and efficient services to our customers and cargo carriers around the world. We also know that what occurs on the ground is fundamental to quality air cargo service. Managing the export acceptance, import delivery, and timely transport of shipments each year is a complex operational challenge. Therefore, we strive constantly to improve our service and operational capabilities. For example, Qatar Airways Cargo offers the fastest airline transfer at Doha through its Quick Ramp Transfer (QRT) solution. We are the only carrier in the Middle East to offer refrigerated or ‘reefer’ truck services for ramp transfers at its hub. Sensitive commodities are collected from and delivered directly to the aircraft by specialised temperature controlled vehicles, ensuring the cool chain process is seamless and eliminating risk to temperature exposure.

Where do you see the power and potential of aviation in this region and how well placed is HIA to maximize its return? Throughout history, the Middle East has acted as a crossroads for economic and cultural trade, as it connects Africa, Asia and Europe. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Qatar is in an excellent position to become a major international travel and commercial gateway. A modern, state-of-the-art passenger terminal and cargo infrastructure are the key to achieving this objective. Located conveniently within an eight-hour flight for more than two thirds of the global population, HIA is ideal for business or leisure travellers as well as airfreight, especially between manufacturing centres in Asia and consumers in the US, Europe and Africa and vice versa.

What are some of the things that airports in the Middle East d odifferently, which make them deliver unique growth trends and better benchmarks? HIA is not just a transfer hub, but a destination in itself. For travellers who seek to extend their stay at the airport or add a new dimension to their air travel experience, HIA will provide a sensational resort-like environment. Namely, HIA has been built with passenger comfort in mind and the changing environment in the area of continued technological advancements. Passengers travelling through the airport will experience a bespoke, architecturally beautiful space that offers unique experiences. HIA will have a total of 16 lounges offering passengers unprecedented facilities, amenities and customer service combined to provide quite simply the most luxurious airport experience anywhere in the world. Additionally, HIA’s retail and food and beverage offering is at the heart of the airport and is an extremely important part of the travellers’ experience.

With significant new developments at DWC in Dubai and at AUH in Abu Dhabi how healthy is the competition among airports in the Middle East? HIA’s pioneering design, engineering and construction makes it a flagship national project and one of the most ambitious global airport projects currently underway. With state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities all housed within one space, as well as optimized operational flow, HIA sets a new global standard in travel experience.

Doha has been a venue for several global events and the next most expected spectacle for the city is the 2022 FIFA World Cup. What are your thoughts? There are a number of events taking place in Qatar that will bring the global community to experience Doha’s first class hospitality. HIA will play a critical role in facilitating their arrival and departure, and guests should look forward to travelling through Qatar’s world-class aviation gateway. These events are also part of the human and economic development pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, in which HIA is one of the key drivers and facilitators of economic diversification. 

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