Qatar Airways CEO Claims Singapore Copied Doha’s Airport Design

Qatar Airways’s controversial CEO recently caused a stir, when he suggested that the architects behind Singapore’s Changi Airport copied the plans for Qatar’s Hamad International Airport. Akbar Al Baker said that the designs for the expansion of Doha’s main airport have been in the works for six years.

Singapore Jewel Changi Complex and indoor tropical garden
Qatar Airways’s CEO claims that Singapore Changi copied the design for the Hamad International Airport expansion. Photo: Matteo Morando via Wikimedia Commons

Qatar has been planning an expansion of its main airport, Hamad International, for several years now. To keep up with the growth of national carrier Qatar Airways and to ensure the country’s economic diversification plan runs smoothly, Hamad International Airport needs to be expanded.

On 22 October the plans for the expansion project were revealed to the global press at a conference in Doha. The initial phase of the expansion project will increase the airport’s capacity. This will go from 35 million annual passengers to 53 million annual passengers. The second phase of construction will increase the annual capacity even further to 70 million passengers.

We’ve known about some of the larger features of the project for a while now, but there was one particularly surprising revelation that emerged at the conference.

The surprising claim from Akbar Al Baker

There are a few airlines that spring to mind when you think of outspoken CEOs, and Qatar Airways is one of them. Today Online compiled a list of some of Akbar Al Baker’s most confusing comments, which include opinions on Delta Air Lines’s CEO, Richard Anderson, and backpackers visiting Qatar.

In his most recent controversial comment, Al Baker claims that the designers of Singapore’s Changi International Airport copied the designs for the Hamad International Airport expansion project.

An artist's concept for the Hamad International Airport expansion project
The design for the Hamad International Airport expansion project looks remarkably similar to the Singapore Jewel Changi complex. Photo: Hamad International Airport via Facebook

Specifically, Al Baker claims that the Jewel Changi Airport entertainment and shopping complex is a copy of the Qatari plans.

“You will realize that somebody copied our design, which was already on the table nearly six years ago… We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, that took our design and did it,” Al Baker reportedly said at the unveiling of the Hamad International expansion project.

The similarities between the two designs

Jewel Changi Airport was opened earlier this year, and it’s a very impressive structure both inside and out.

The focal feature of the complex is the enormous concave ceiling structure. This doubles as a water feature when it rains outside. Also, inside the building, an array of tropical plants make up the indoor garden. As pointed out by Airline Geeks, there is a striking resemblance between the two projects.

Akbar Al Baker claims that the designs for the Hamad International Airport expansion project have been around for six years. But are his claims of plagiarism realistic?

Hamad International Airport
Hamad International Airport will be undergoing significant expansion. Photo: Arne Müseler via Wikimedia Commons

Singapore Changi’s response

Subsequently, Singapore Changi and the firm responsible for the design of Jewel Changi, Safdie Architects, have since hit back. Changi Airport Group’s CEO Lee Seow Hiang discussed Al Baker’s claims with The Straits Times. He revealed that the designs for the project were first conceptualized seven years ago in 2012.

Safdie Architects have also reiterated that Moshe Safdie has never visited Qatar or worked with any Qatari clients.

In a statement, Mr. Safdie said, “We are delighted that Jewel’s uniqueness and originality has been well-recognized by the international community and resulted in many wanting to emulate it.”

Qatar Airways has not yet been able to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on Akbar Al Baker’s comments.

Altogether, what do you think about these claims? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.