APEX Insight: With route-to-route competition tighter than ever in some markets, the allure of airports can not be taken for granted. This multipart feature looks at airlines that are elevating the ground experience for their passengers by making architectural wonders and tourism attractions out of their airport terminals.
Hamad International Airport and Qatar Airways
Managing company: Qatar Airways
Project duration: 2003–2020
Project cost: $15.5 billion
Passengers per year: 30.9 million
Hamad International Airport is a glistening and fully polished monument to what an airline-designed airport can look like. The development of the Doha-based airport, which opened to the public in 2014, is ambitious no matter how you look at it. Not only is it the first example of an airline building its own airport, but the project also involved the reclaiming of land from the gulf for 60 percent of its site area.
“For us, it’s the entire experience,” says Rossen Dimitrov, senior vice-president of Customer Experience for Qatar Airways. “Other airlines may be good in the air, but often forget the ground experience. We wanted to bring the luxury of the onboard experience that we provide our customers with to the ground.”
“We wanted to bring the luxury of the onboard experience that we provide our customers with to the ground.” — Rossen Dimitrov, Qatar Airways
True to the airline’s brand, luxury exudes from the airport’s architecture, crowned with a dramatic rippling rooftop reminiscent of the Gulf region’s rolling sand dunes. Already spanning an area one-third the size of Doha, when completed, the Airport City, combined with the airport, will claim a total footprint of 32 square kilometers. The planned expansion will include an extension of the check-in area and concourses D and E and new passenger amenity areas and lounges. This past April, the airport laid out its road map to transform into a “smart airport,” which will allow passengers to navigate the facility entirely using self-service technology and will include a Wi-Fi and iBeacon integration in its mobile app.
“We brought our cabin crew to the ground to work with us on design, development and research to bring their knowledge and experience from on board the aircraft to the ground,” Dimitrov says. He points out that this approach is not only crucial for the development of the airport’s features and design, but also for translating service standards to staff on the ground.
Located six hours from 80 percent of the world’s population, the airport has rapidly emerged as an important hub. It will also play host to sports fans around the globe in 2022 for the FIFA World Cup.
This article is an excerpt from the multipart feature “Hub Sweet Hub,” originally published in the 6.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.