Features

Inside Qatar: Hamad International Airport

2 May 2017 by Akanksha Maker
Passenger Terminal Complex, Doha

Picture 138 check-in counters spread across five islands, more than 50 passport control counters, direct access between 41 boarding gates and of course, its snazzy passenger train that can carry 190 persons per trip. Opened only two years ago, sprawling across an area that spans one third the size of Doha, Hamad International Airport welcomes you with a 90-metre high Air Traffic Control tower alongside a magnificent Passenger Terminal Complex that  emulates waves of the Arabian Gulf. And if you’re still not charmed, a vibrant aquatic-themed public mosque with a glass dome could do the trick.

Arriving at Hamad International Airport at 5am after a rather smooth Qatar Airways’ flight from Mumbai, I was welcomed to a futuristic-looking arrival hall. Overlooking the departure hall below us, the sheer size of the airport was overwhelming. We watched the dual passenger train (doors on both sides of the carriage open to let passengers exit and enter at the same time) shuttle between the South and North Station near Concourses D and E, making the airport almost seem like a mini-township with shops and eateries around.

QATARI CHARM

I only had the chance to experience the airport and take it all in while departing Doha. Qatar Airways’ sleek oryx logo welcomed us to the dedicated check-in area for business and first class passengers of the airline. The staff was simply superb in facilitating a smooth check-in and we rested for some time at the waiting area in front of the check-in counters, with some Arabic dates and refreshments. The washrooms, as spick and span as those in 5-star hotels, are worth a mention too because of their immaculate condition. Passing through separate passport control and security for business and first classs customers of Qatar Airways, we arrived at the enormous departure hall of this 22 sq km airport.

ARTISTIC APPROACH

I finally got a chance to gaze at the giant “lamp bear” that somehow remains the foremost symbol of this airport for me — even more so after I learned more about this piece of art created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. Sculpted from bronze, the canary-yellow teddy bear sits inside a lamp, reminding travellers of happy childhood memories of their bygone trips. Situated at the central foyer before entering the airport’s world-class duty free hall, the mammoth yet delicate children’s toy adds a human touch to this fast paced space.

Apart from the bear, there is enough art across the airport to keep travellers intrigued. Curated in partnership with Qatar museums are unconventional artworks installed here. Unmissable are the series of oryx sculptures by Tom Claasen, Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado (an enlarged bronze flower hybrid) by British artist Marc Quinn and Desert Horse by acclaimed Qatari artist Ali Hassan that represents different forms of the Arabic letter “n”.

RETAIL THERAPY

Up ahead from the central foyer is Qatar Duty Free (QDF) that offers passengers a wide range of luxury and mid-range fashion, confectionery, alcohol, electronics and literature to choose from. I spent a couple of hours sifting through the collections at the duty-free stores of labels such as Burberry, Tiffany & Co and Coach. Strategically positioned beside the duty free area is the airport’s F&B facilities that cater to the discerning traveller with an impressive variety of restaurants. You can find Caviar House & Prunier, Negroni for Italian, Yum Cha for Asian, Qataf for local cuisine and Jamocha Cafe where I grabbed a quiche and coffee before boarding my flight to Mumbai at gate C10.

Lamp bear by Urs Fischer

REJUVENATING RETREATS

The airport, built like a resort, offers over 40,000 sqm of retail, F&B, lounges and wellness space. With an entrance fee of QAR 150 (₹2,749), The Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre allows guests to access a temperature-controlled indoor pool, gym, two squash courts, hydrotherapy tubs, shower rooms and a spa that offers anti-jet lag massages.

Flyers can also spend quality time at one of the many lounges across the terminal that claim to offer 5-star hotel like amenities in a comforting environment. As a business class passenger of Qatar Airways, I was invited to the Al Mourjan Business Lounge on level 3 — an Arabic retreat that teams traditional Qatari hospitality with modern dining, rejuvenating business and first class passengers before their flights.

Oryx Lounge with an entry fee of QAR 200 (₹3,665) makes sense for passengers spending long layovers at the airport. Premium flyers of all airlines and select cardholders can enter the lounge for free. Other lounges include Al Safwa Lounge, Qatar Airways’ first class lounge and Al Maha Lounges for customers of Al Maha Meet and Assist Services of the national airline of Qatar. Open to select Qatar Airways Privilege Club and oneworld alliance members are two more First and Business Class Lounges on Concourse A, level 2. For some peace and quiet, simply walk into one of the Quiet Rooms spread across the airport that offer recliners and a peaceful ambience for passengers to relax before they depart Doha. Activity nodes with computers and couches for business and leisure travellers who don’t wish to pay for entrance are also spread across Hamad International Airport.

HOTEL CHECK

Passengers that have much longer halts at Doha Airport can even check-in at The Airport Hotel located at the passenger terminal. It features 100 fully furnished rooms that begin at 38 sqm offering amenities such as a 42-inch flat screen television and a safe deposit. Hotel guests can access The Vitality Wellness & Fitness Centre for free — making a one-night’s stay here a pretty good deal for passengers with enough time on hand. Rooms can be purchased for a few hours too.

QUICK FACTS

  • 70 retail outlets
  • 30 restaurants and cafes
  • 12 lounges
  • 30 million passengers per year
  • 8,700 passengers per hour
  • 4,850 metre-long Eastern Runway
  • 4,250 metre-long Western Runway
  • 100 flight movements per hour
  • 19,500 bags handled per hour
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BTUK September 2018
BTUK September 2018
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