Qatar Airways is to spend US$1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) on new facilities at Doha International Airport, even though the buildings will be vacated as early as next year when the first phase of a larger airport opens 5km away. "We have invested heavily in the current infrastructure," said Akbar al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways and Doha International, adding that a new arrivals hall should be finished by July. "So you can see how aggressive we are."
The airport will be redeveloped once the New Doha International Airport is operating, Mr al Baker said. "There is a master plan for the whole [current] airport area. It is nearly 17 square km and will include commercial, residential, and other public facilities," he said. "The facilities have been built in such a way that they can be reused [for] any other purpose." New Doha International Airport is being built at a cost of $14.5bn as the future home of Qatar Airways, the second-largest Arab carrier, with 82 aircraft serving 89 destinations.
The aggressive growth programme will see the airline serve 120 destinations using a fleet of 120 aircraft within three years, Mr al Baker said. The new airport will be able to handle 24 million passengers a year in its first phase, and when completed in 2015 will process 50 million passengers. It is being built on reclaimed land and includes an 800 metre covered rail link. The investment in temporary facilities is being matched by authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as they seek to stay one step of ahead of growing passenger demand until much larger airports are built to house their flag carriers.
In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, billions of dollars are also being spent on facilities with an uncertain lifespan. Abu Dhabi Airports Company spent Dh1bn on its new Terminal 3 facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport, which opened last year for the exclusive use of Etihad Airways. In 2015, Etihad will move to the $6.8bn Midfield Terminal, which will triple the capacity at the airport when it opens with the ability to handle more than 20 million passengers a year.
In Dubai, authorities are spending several billion dollars in improvements at Dubai International Airport for a third concourse to handle Emirates's Airbus A380 superjumbos. Officials are also considering expanding Terminal 2 to serve the growth of flydubai, the new budget airline. At the same time, Dubai is preparing its new airport, Al Maktoum International in Jebel Ali, at a cost of $10bn to handle the future growth of Emirates Airline and the more than 130 other carriers servicing Dubai International.