Qatar files $600m claim as delayed Doha airport row deepens

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Qatar Airways has filed a $600 million legal claim against an airport construction firm as the fallout from the delay to the opening of the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) begins.

The airport, which will initially handle 28 milllion passengers annually, was originally due to open in December. But Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker does not now expect the airline to move into the new airport until the second half of 2013.

"Operational trials of the new airport have been ongoing since the summer as everything was in place, but incomplete airport lounges proved a serious setback," says Al Baker.

Qatar Airways, which is set to be the airport operator when it opens, has now filed a legal claim against German Emirati join venture construction company Lindner Depa Interiors (LDI). It says the latter had undertaken to complete the construction of 19 airport lounges at the airport by the summer of 2012 in a $250 million contract, but failed to complete the project on time.

"We have been badly affected as an airline with the delay impacting Qatar Airways' expansion plans that include new aircraft deliveries and opening up new routes at the rate we want to and more importantly causing a lot of inconvenience to our passengers in addition to the revenue losses to the airline and its subsidiaries," says Al Baker.

LDI though hit back, issuing a statement in which it says it has never had a contract or relationship with Qatar Airways. LDI says it is in abitration proceedings with the NDIA, with whom it was contracted to work.

LDI adds it was denied full access to the project site for the first nine months of the 16 months project. "This delay, combined with NDIA's refusal to pay acceleration costs recommended by its own management consultancy, meant LDI was unable to start all interior contracting work on site as planned. As a result, LDI was unable to meet its original contract completion date," the company says.

Under the first phase of development NDIA will have a capacity of 28 million but this will roughly double when fully operational in 2018.