After a series of missed openings, the much glorified Hamad International Airport will be officially opened early next year.

This was announced by the Qatar Minister of Transport Jassim Seif Al Sulaiti here recently. The high-tech airport, which has already incurred an expenditure of $ 15.5 billion to build, will be able to handle around 50 million passengers a year after it becomes fully operational in 2015. The airport, located a few kilometers from the existing Doha International Airport, was to open on several scheduled dates including April 1, but deferred due to civil defence issues.

On Tuesday, the Qatari administration allowed the international media including The Hindu right of entry to the airport. It will be the world’s first airport to accommodate unrestricted operations by all commercial aircraft, including the A380, the largest passenger aircraft ever built.

Officials say that the 2,200-hectare airport site, more than half of which is built on reclaimed land from the Arabian Gulf, combines both architectural flamboyance and technologically advanced systems. The iconic structure promises to offer an unrivalled experience for passengers, airlines and the local aviation community at large operating at the facility.

Forecasted for maximum development from 2015 onwards, the airport project will be implemented in phases. Work began in January 2005 on phase one. Both the runways having a length of 4,850-metre and 4,250-metre and capable of taking a fully loaded Airbus A380 aircraft have been completed.

The airport will incorporate a total of 41 wide body aircraft contact gates, together with over 40,000 square metres of space devoted to retail facilities, passenger lounges, and multi-story short-term and long-term parking.

Other features are a new Emiri Terminal complex for VIP flights with additional hardstands, cargo terminal buildings, aircraft hangars and associated airline and airport ancillary features. The complex has an airport hotel and a 100-room transit hotel within the terminal for the convenience of transfer passengers.

The airport has a six lakh sq. m. three-storey terminal with 22 remote gates and 41 contact gates, six of which will cater specifically for the A380. More than 40,000 sq.m. of retail facilities and passenger lounges have been provided at the airport.

There is an aircraft maintenance centre with a hangar that can accommodate up to 13 aircraft of different types at any one time, including Airbus A380s, A330s, A340s, A320 family of aircraft, Boeing 777s, next generation Boeing 787s and A350s.

Beyond 2015, the terminal building will be expanded to 9,00,000 sq.m. to handle 50 million passengers a year, officials said.

(The correspondent was in Qatar at the company’s invitation)

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