Qatar Airways Group will move to Hamad International Airport towards the year-end, said CEO Akbar al-Baker at the travel fair ITB Berlin yesterday.
The $15.5bn Hamad International Airport that is to be managed and operated by Qatar Airways will receive first passengers on April 1, when the facility will be opened to a dozen airlines that don’t require lounge utilisation.
Initially, Hamad International Airport will have a handling capacity of some 28mn passengers a year, increasing to 50mn in its final phase of development beyond 2015.
The current airport (Doha International) will remain open to passenger services until Qatar Airways moves its entire operations to the new facility by the year-end, said al-Baker.
Al-Baker said Qatar Airways was looking forward to becoming a fully-fledged member of oneworld, the first of the major Gulf carriers to announce intentions to join a global airline alliance. And he elaborated on an “exciting” new association, set to begin this summer, when Qatar Airways becomes a strategic partner with football giants FC Barcelona.
He said: “These are exciting times for Qatar Airways and Qatar. The opening of Hamad International Airport, our new home, will be a formidable milestone in the country’s relatively short history in the aviation industry.
“This is an airport being watched closely by industry observers around the world, an airport that will set the standards and benchmark globally in the quality of facilities, services and finishings, not seen anywhere in the world.
“We look forward to welcoming the first airlines next month followed soon after by cargo operations and freighter flights moving across to Hamad International Airport. Qatar Airways will move its entire operations to the new airport by the year-end.”
Highlights of the new facility include over 40,000 sq m of retail space and passenger lounges, some 41 contact gates, dedicated gates for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, a VVIP terminal, an iconic mosque, cargo complex and two runways, one being the longest in the world, and much more.
Al-Baker said: “The new airport is an architectural masterpiece that promises to be a great new travel experience, meeting the exciting expansion plans for Qatar Airways, which currently operates some 121 aircraft to 125 destinations worldwide. Within three years, we will surpass 170 aircraft flying to more than 170 destinations. Our expansion has been a game-changer in the industry, rising over the years to meet the exceptional demand for business and leisure traffic.
“Across the world, we are continuing our expansion with three new routes already launched this year to Najaf in Iraq, Gassim in Saudi Arabia and to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. We will be adding Chicago to our network next month, followed by Salalah in May and Chengdu in China
“By the end of the year, we expect to become full member of the oneworld airline alliance that will give us greater reach to many more cities around the world through our new partner airlines. 2013 will also be a year where our brand will be elevated to a new global platform through our strategic partnership with football giants FC Barcelona.” Pages 12, 17