Phased transition preferred as new Doha hub's opening nears

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Qatar Airways, which is the operator of the new Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, aims to implement a phased opening of the hub when operations begin in the coming months.

The airline’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker expects the airport to open by the middle of the year, following recent comments by a senior HIA official.

“The chairman of the steering committee has already announced that the airport will open in the second quarter of 2014,” says Al Baker. “Qatar Airways, as airport operator, would prefer to have a soft opening to not put too much load on new systems and gradually ramp up the use of the airport.”

It is understood that it this is likely to involve airlines transferring operations from the existing international airport in phases from the middle of this year. It is not clear when Qatar Airways – which is the major user – will move across.

The first three Airbus A380s for Qatar Airways are scheduled to be delivered in June, having been pushed back slightly to coincide with the new airport’s introduction. Al Baker confirms the delivery slip was due to the timing of the HIA opening.

A380 operations at Doha’s existing airport would be compromised by the fact that all parking bays operate as remote stands without air bridges, so passenger loading would have to be undertaken to the main deck only using stairs. HIA has 41 contact gates, several of which will offer dual-deck air bridges for A380s.

The new airport has been delayed by over a year after wrangles over completion contracts with suppliers.