The old Doha airport is planned for reinstatement in order to accommodate visitors for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Mothballed since 2014, the airport was slated to be demolished to make way for an urban project, but today, at an event in Qatar, CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, told journalists he planned to bring it back into use to add 10 million passengers more capacity to the city over the course of the big event.
Old Doha Airport to come out of mothballs
The old Doha airport is to be brought out of mothballs in order to accommodate travelers for the forthcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, told the Qatar Tribune that the retired airport would be opened for two months in order to handle additional passengers.
He estimates that the reopening of the airport will be able to accommodate an additional 10 million passengers during the tournament and say that the process is already underway to bring it up to working order again.
“We are already activating. In 2020 and 2021 the airport will get a full refurbishment,” he told ATW Online on the sidelines of the Trinity Forum today.
He added that other air bases in Qatar would also be on standby as a precaution, to ensure Qatar could handle the predicted influx of passengers.
About Doha International Airport
When it was in full swing, Doha International Airport was the hub of aviation for Qatar. Designed to facilitate holidaymakers from the local area, the airport was a pleasant place to catch a flight, but unprepared for what the future would hold. In the end, the traffic demand simply outgrew its surroundings.
Doha International’s Departure and Transfer Terminal handled all economy class Qatar Airways flights as well as those from other airlines using the airport. Over the years, the terminal was expanded many times, at its peak offering 44 gates, seating areas and duty-free. There were three airline lounges, two for Qatar Airways and the Oryx Lounge for foreign airlines’ premium passengers.
Along with the departures area, there was a 340,000 square foot arrivals terminal, complete with 22 immigration counters, eight baggage carousels and 746 parking spaces. Alongside this, there was also a separate Premium Terminal, which handled all Qatar Airways’ first and business class passengers.
Despite multiple expansions, the airport was vastly overused. At construction, it was designed to handle 12 million passengers a year. However, Qatar’s growth and evolution into a hub kicked the traffic up to some 23 million by 2013. It ran out of space, and Qatar was left with no choice but to move all ops.
On the 27th May 2014, all scheduled air traffic was moved to the new Hamad International Airport, just 2.5 miles to the east of the old airport. The very last airline to depart from Doha International was Lufthansa, who flew to Frankfurt on the 28th May at 00:30. The plan, at the time, was to demolish the old airport and to redevelop it as an urban project called Al Sahan City.
This doesn’t seem to have got very far, or indeed anywhere. While there’s lots of information online about the plans for Al Sahan, the ‘city within a city’, there doesn’t seem to have been any real action on it as yet.
Resurrecting the airport
Clearly, Al Baker thinks that the old Doha airport is in a fit state to be reinstated in time for the 2022 World Cup. A refurbishment it will need indeed, but it seems that the bulldozers have, thus far, been kept at bay.
Along with the reinstatement of the old Doha Airport, Al Baker is confident in the ability of Hamad Airport to handle the bulk of the traffic. It is expected that the airport will handle some 40 million passengers by the end of 2019, and there is an ambitious expansion plan in place to increase its capability for the coming years. He told the Qatar Tribune,
“Ultimately, soon after Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the airport will have annual capacity for 70 million passengers. We don’t intend to compete with our neighbours on size, we intend to compete on quality. When we reach 70 million capacity, we will stop there because that is the size of hub that our country needs.”
While the plans for Hamad’s expansion are well underway, it seems Al Baker is hedging his bets as to whether its airport enough to accommodate all the travelers. It will be great to see the old airport back in action, and to see how Qatar copes with its multinational visitors in two years’ time.