By Beatrice Thomas
Update: Qatar's long-awaited $15.5bn new airport hub is now open to the public
3:12pm: After exiting after the press conference to clear customs, getting back through again was a breeze with plenty of counters and, admittedly, few passengers. It's streets ahead of the old airport's customs area.
Downstairs, though, in departures and the pickings are slim - all the shops around the $6.8m giant teddy are still to open , along with what looks like a customary airport oyster bar and a larger Qatar Duty Free.
It's hard to tell as access to the area is blocked off at the moment and the man guarding the barrier couldn't tell me when it will open. It's only day 1 , I suppose, though it would have been nice to give passengers an airport shopping experience from the start.
Around the departure gates and also the food is lacking - so far only a Jamocha cafe is open for food and a small Qatar Duty Free for retail- not including the Armani fragrance stand.
What is pretty cool is the Internet and TV area- the former looking pretty much like an Apple store. The arm chairs, recharging facilities and big-screen TVs are also a great passenger facility.
2:10pm: Our story about the opening of the new airport is now live. Read it here
2:08pm: HIA has seen its first plane land - the Flydubai flight was 40 minutes late but every one cheered all the same - the press conference has been held and the airport is now an operating facility with the hum of passengers already evident around the facility.
12:22pm: HIA has received its first official flight and a Qatar Airways Airbus A320 has been greeted by water cannon celebrations and is taxiing towards the gate and the new terminal.
12:15pm: HIA has its first passengers! We have now spotted passengers with carry-on luggage and duty free in hand, waiting outside a neighbouring gate in the departure halls. They are likely to be getting on the return flydubai flight, when that plane lands. The airport is officially operational to the public, though we are still waiting for the official press launch event to take place.
11:50am: As part of the wider airport redevelopment, the Emir has built a new private, VIP terminal for members of the royal family, government ministers and other VIPs, which is about 1km away.
I had spotted a building in the taxi on the way here that in any other city would easily qualify as a classy art gallery or museum-type structure. Now I know that building is in fact the Emir's personal new airport terminal.
It's not part of today's launch activities but I'm told it is white inside with high ceilings and looks like an old-style royal palace. Despite being a lavish, fast-track facility it still has a customs clearance area.
Meanwhile, media as well as key project team members from companies who worked on HIA are waiting around for the press conference. Everyone is patiently waiting for things to get under way while talking positively about what they have seen so far.
In my discussions with local media there is a sense of relief that it is finally open after years of waiting. Most comments comparing HIA with other major world airports indicate that it is up there with the best of them.
The "first" Qatar Airways plane is expected to be 45 minutes late. The welcome party is waiting outside the building, with the water cannons on standby in the background of our photo below. The delay doesn't bode well for the flydubai flight which was meant to land at 11:15am local time.
11:20am: We are still waiting on the Qatar Airways plane to arrive at HIA, which will contain the dignitaries. Apparently it will take off from the old airport, do a lap and land at the new airport.
11:00am: While we wait for the press conference to get under way, some more fast facts:-
- the project employed 100 local and international companies, 50,000 workers and more than 1,000 engineers and technicians.
- It is Qatar's largest development project to date, according to the Steering Committee New Doha International Airport Project.
- It will grow to 50 million passenger capacity in line with the expansion of the concourses
What is interesting is what the final figure on how much this cost will be, especially with all the delays.
Here's another shot, this time of the outside of the airport.
10:50am: Some more images of the check-in area and the assembled press corps:
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10:40am: OK, here are some fast facts:
- HIA and Airport City span 29 square km, 60 percent of which is reclaimed land from Arabian Gulf.
- the project includes 100 buildings.
- the passenger terminal features internal area of 600,000 square metres and has three concourses and 33 contact gates, which will eventually be increased to five concourses and 65 contact gates, including eight for the A380 in the final build-out.
Once fully open, the terminal also features 16 lounges, 26 art installations, more than 100 food and beverage retail outlets, transit hotel, swimming pool, luxury spa, squash courts and a four-storey catering facility that is one of the largest in the world.
In addition, the onsite public mosque can accommodate 500 worshippers.
Anyway, the media are now all assembled in the press conference area, eating breakfast and drinking coffee, ahead of the touchdown, which is due in 30 minutes.
En route to the presser area, which is part of departure gate, I spotted a Qatar Duty Free outlet which is already open. I haven't seen other shops though I am expecting the high-end fashion names to be here.
10:30am: Some images of the famous $6.8m teddy bear, click here for the background story:
10:25am: I've spotted the first sign of Qatar's love of art with some unusual sculptures scattered around at arrivals. Have yet to see the giant teddy bear.
There's a 24/7 shop at arrivals, which is a good idea. And it's open - even better. Journalists from across the region are registering for the event. Mostly from the Middle East but one fellow from Japan TV has made it over. The first flight to officially land on the East runway will be a Qatar Airways flight. It will have members of the steering committee aboard and other delegates who will receive a water cannon salute. It's expected at 10am local time or 11am Dubai time. The first commercial flight is expected at 11:15am Doha time.
Starting today, 10 carriers will start operations out of HIA with remaining carriers, including national airline QA, expecting to move by May 27.
10:15am: I arrived at the old Doha International airport and you can see straight away why more room is needed - the queue was snaking along the entire passport control area, with only business class passengers spared the long wait to clear customs. There was a really small duty free and a very crammed baggage claim area with an even busier arrivals area.
The journey from the old airport to the new took about 10 minutes by car. From a distance the new airport building rises up: sparkling, azure-coloured man-made lakes are at the entrance with fountains turned on, spouting water from copper steel pipes. The entire first impression is really one of an oasis resort.
Entering the building you can smell the new leather chairs in the departures hall. Everything is new, and the steel structure is glistening.
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9:54am: Qatar's new Hamad International Airport is finally set to begin passenger operations today, after a string of delays. Budget carriers are likely to be the first to operate out of the new facility. The $15.5bn planned hub for Qatar Airways has missed a series of launch dates, including the end of 2012, April 1 2013 and the end of last year. My name is Beatrice Thomas, chief reporter at Arabian Business and I'll be your guide for the next few hours as we await the grand opening of the Middle East's latest epic infrastructure project.
So let's get started. Below are some of the first images of the sculptures in airport arrival area:
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You seem to miss in your facts the fact that the airport is two years behind schedule... but that's fine, carry on the positive spin that you've been flown there - probably business class - to give.
Beatrice has clearly done no research whatsoever, it has been common knowledge for quite some time that the Emir has his own private terminal in the airport.
Is she even sure that there is a flight taking place today?
Well Done Qatar, great achievement
Franco , this airport is 5 years behind programme and 5 billion dollars over budget .
It might not be in Beatrice's 'fast facts', but feel free to read her very first post...
"Qatar's new Hamad International Airport is finally set to begin passenger operations today, after a string of delays. Budget carriers are likely to be the first to operate out of the new facility. The $15.5bn planned hub for Qatar Airways has missed a series of launch dates, including the end of 2012, April 1 2013 and the end of last year."
WOW, what great coverage of such an amazing event... I especially like the way that all aspects such as delays, cost overrun, litigation, treatment of workers have been so well integrated into the underlying message. At least there is a huge teddy bear, which to be honest makes up for all the other failings that this project has been beset with. Let's hope that lessons are learnt or else future projects are going to be even more shambolic (dare that be possible). Let us remember that 2020 cannot be delayed by a few years to account for mismanagement!!
One would also have thought that a bit of extra effort could have been made in getting the plane flying all the way from the current airport to the new one on time... no doubt a sign of things to come (at least they won't have any luggage to lose!).
I look forward to following the blog as it develops to see how many more superlatives can be included to describe just how great the whole thing is...
I think Eeyore the Oryx on 1st page sums up most people's feelings on arriving in Qatar and its attempt to open the airport with such consideration for their visitors. Still, no doubt their application to host the winter Olympics will only be elevated by this grand opening.............
The teddy bear in the middle is making up for all the fuss and delay?
Of course... why wouldn't a gigantic, over priced Teddy make up for all the fuss and delay?