by: Rory Jones (The Wall Street Journal)
Doha’s new international airport might just be worth the wait. Having been marred by delays of about four years and contract disputes with companies involved in the construction, the Hamad International Airport is set to open in the first quarter of next year with an impressive facade.
It has waterfalls running down the walls, a dome-shaped blue mosque and a wave-like roof that rolls from check-in to immigration and the departure lounge. The $15 billion development covers an area of 22 square kilometers, a third of the size of Doha, and will cater for 28 million annual passengers when it opens, before being expanded to 50 million within about three years.
In true Persian Gulf style, 60% of the airport is built on reclaimed land from the sea, and it has two runways, one of which at 4,850 meters, is one of the longest at any commercial airport. The runway needs to be long in the sweltering desert summer temperatures above 50 degrees, as aircraft need longer in the heat in order to take off.
About 8,700 passengers will be able to move through the airport each hour, roughly 80% of which will be transferring onto to other destinations. There is even a separate terminal for the Qatari royal family that can accommodate an Airbus A380, which is the double-decker bus of airplanes.
Oh, and sat in this middle of the airport is a giant teddy bear art sculpture.
“It will definitely be the best airport in the world and the envy of a lot of people in this region,” Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, said with usual aplomb on the sidelines of an event this week in Doha, and despite the fact that delays have stunted Qatar Airways growth.
There is no doubt the airport will be on the radar of other “people” -- i.e. the authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are building their own mega airports. The Midfield Terminal in Abu Dhabi is being built at a cost of $3 billion, while Al Maktoum Airport opened for commercial use this week after much delay and is planned to eventually accommodate 160 million passengers, with a total cost for the Dubai World Central aviation complex of $32 billion.
Workers at Hamad international said the airport was ready to open tomorrow if needs be, so the reasons for further delay are unfortunately not quite as clear as the airport suggests.