Qatar Airways’ first- and business-class lounges at the Doha’s new Hamad International airport (HIA) will not open until two months after the airline moves to the new hub on 27 May.
The Qatari flag carrier’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker attributes the delay to the contractor “having difficulty keeping up with the kind of finishes we want”, and indicates that “complicated”, “high-end” specifications have been made.
In the interim between the transfer from Doha International to the new airport and the opening of the lounges, Qatar intends to accommodate affected passengers in other lounges at the airport – or, if capacity is constrained, to issue them with vouchers providing “good value”.
The Hamad project as a whole has been subject to schedule slippage, to Al Baker’s frustration: “We are very disappointed because the delay of two years with this airport has cost Qatar Airways in excess of $650 million-worth of opportunity per annum.”
The final deadline set for the airline’s move to HIA was a function not of the timing of IATA’s annual general meeting, which kicks off in Doha on 1 June, but rather of the needs imposed by Qatar Airways’ summer operating plan.
“If you would have again delayed the opening even by two months, we would take another hit of $150 million, which we cannot afford,” says Al Baker. “And we cannot delay our A380 deliveries any more. So this made us do it. And we realised something: that unless you push people into the deep end they will not learn to swim. So we had to do it, and people have to manage.”
He offers a glowing verdict on the end result: “I don’t think there is any airport of this standard anywhere in the world.”