Qatar has allocated QR1bn ($274.6m) from its 2019 budget of QR206.7bn ($56.8bn) to the expansion of Hamad International Airport (HIA), with Qatar Airways, the nation’s flag carrier, forging new links for air passengers and cargo in the first quarter of 2019. As part of the annual budget statement announced by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar, in December 2018, funds will be channelled into phase two of the airport’s ongoing redevelopment. Upgrades to HIA’s second phase are scheduled to get under way in the second half of 2019 and involve the expansion of cargo and passenger terminals, and retail space, which will nearly double from 40,000 sq metres to 75,000 sq metres.
Scheduled for completion in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the upgraded airport will be able to accommodate over 53m passengers per year, up from 30m in 2018, and 3m tonnes of cargo, up from 1.9m. According to HIA, the facility is already operating at overcapacity, having served 34.5m passengers and handled 2.16m tonnes of cargo in 2018. While the former figure represented a slight decrease from the 35.3m passengers recorded in 2017, the latter equated to growth of just under 14%.
In October 2018 the airport unveiled 62 selfcheck-in kiosks, 12 self-service bag drops and a mobile automated visa document check machine – the first of its kind at any major airport. The new facilities marked the completion of the first phase of HIA’s Smart Airport Programme, which was launched in 2016 and aims to improve the customer experience and speed up passenger processing times.
New Routes & New Markets
The airport’s redevelopment dovetails with Qatar’s ambition to tap into new tourism markets around the world in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Indeed, the European market is one that Qatar Airways has sought to increase connectivity. In February 2019 the airline announced that it would be adding a second daily flight between Edinburgh Airport and HIA every Monday in April to cater to travellers during the Easter holiday season, with twice-daily services to be introduced in the summer as well. The news came less than two months after the flag carrier launched its inaugural flight to Da Nang International Airport. The city is the third destination for the airline in Vietnam and is being served by Boeing B787-8 aircraft four times per week.
The flag carrier has also sought to expand operations under its freight arm Qatar Airways Cargo, which commenced belly-hold flights to Da Nang in conjunction with the new passenger route. Qatar Airways Cargo now flies more than 1400 tonnes out of Vietnam every week, with the main exports from Da Nang being garments, perishables and electronics. Additionally, the company has bolstered connectivity with Central America, adding Guadalajara, Mexico as a destination on its trans-Pacific freighter route in early January 2019. According to the airline, general cargo accounts for most of the imports to Qatar.
Officials have made significant progress towards strengthening relationships with international bodies in the sector. “Since June 2017 we have established a deeper collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),” Abdulla Nasser Turki Al Subaey, president of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, told OBG. Joining the 36-member ICAO would likely give Qatar significant influence in the development of the international air transport network. In February 2019 the EU and Qatar completed a draft comprehensive air services agreement. If approved by all EU member states, it will see a single set of regulations to be put in place for all flights between the EU and Qatar. “It will create new jobs, business opportunities and provide better prices for passengers,” Violeta Bulc, European commissioner for transport, told local media.
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