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All hands on deck: Doha’s airports are ready for nearly 2 million visitors

Organizing the FIFA World Cup is a huge challenge for every country, with an enormous amount of work put in for everything to be delivered in time and to offer the best experience for all the shareholders involved, from the players to the millions of fans that are taking part on site.

Only a few landmarks, such as the stadiums, the training grounds, and the fan sites are visible on TV, but the work done behind the scenes is immense, with one of the most important roles – an essential one – played by the airports, where passengers are coming in an hour after hour.

For Qatar, the challenge has been even higher, as the country has never known such an influx of passengers coming in such a short time span – four weeks – like for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, extensive work has been done, with the Hamad International Airport being one of the key infrastructure projects that have been built for Qatar 2022.

With an expected 1.8 million visitors visiting the country over the four-week competition and the vast majority set to arrive by air, Hamad International Airport was always going to be a busy hub. However, it was designed to cater to a projected ongoing increase in the volume of traffic, with its initial annual capacity of 29 million passengers nearly doubled since its inauguration in 2014.

The Hamad International Airport (HIA) was designed in 2003, but plans for upgrading the facilities have been earmarked almost immediately and fastened since Qatar successfully bid for the organization of the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

After several years of work, the airport’s Phase A expansion increased the capacity to 58 million passengers per year, essentially doubling its previous capacity from its inauguration. According to the official website of the airport, this expansion included the enhancement of HIA’s central concourse built in the North Plaza of the terminal, home to luxury retail brands, concept stores, and restaurants. The concourse is set within a 10,000m2 indoor tropical garden beneath a dramatic grid shell roof structure that lets in natural sunlight.

ORCHARD – the new tropical garden located at the centre of the terminal expansion will be the new focal point for visitors, with a host of different flora, that includes over 300 trees and over 25,000 plants sourced from sustainable forests from around the world.

The expansion also included the provision of 34 aircraft parking spaces in an area of 250,000 square meters, bringing the total parking spaces at the airport to 180.

“We have already made sure that all the capacities that are involved with extra flights and charter flights meet the maximum capacity per hour of each of the two airports. So we are very well positioned in order to cater for this very large influx of passengers,” said Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker.

“We don’t want it to be the biggest hub in the world. But we in Qatar always look at quality. And this is what we will deliver,” added Al Baker.

Phase B of the expansion of the Hamad International Airport, one of the busiest hubs in the world and certified as a 5-Star Airport for facilities, comfort, cleanliness, shopping, food & beverages, staff service and security/immigration, while also named the Best Airport in the World by travellers in 2021, will start in 2023 and will further increase the capacity to 70 million passengers.

“We are immensely proud to officially launch our airport expansion. Our growth plan will see us welcome over 58 million passengers annually – offering global travellers the best services the industry has to offer. Through the expansion, we have upgraded our facilities and offerings – creating the ultimate destination for passengers,” added Badr Mohammed Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer at HIA Engineering.

The Hamad International Airport is not the only airport in Doha receiving fans, with the older Doha International Airport (DIA) being reopened to cater to the needs of the excess of fans expected in Qatar’s capital.

13 airlines have confirmed that they will use the Doha International Airport throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the access being limited only to ticketed passengers only.

As per reports, the arrival and departure times of the airport can handle over 2000 departing passengers per hour. There will be over 83 check-in desks with over 50 arrival immigration and immigration countered counters. To take the crowd better, the airport will also manage around 22 boarding gates.

“It means a lot to Qatar to host the FIFA World Cup. It is a challenge to organize such a big event for the first time in the Middle East, but it is an opportunity to show the world how Qatar has developed over the past twenty years, share our culture, and invite them to experience Arabian hospitality,” said Ahmed Rihan, airlines affairs consultant at Qatar Civil Aviation Authority.

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