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Old June 4th, 2014, 01:05 AM   #1
Halawala
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Trip Report: The world's newest aviation hub Hamad International at Doha; DOH-DXB in F

Trip Report

Arriving


On Thursday 29th May, I went to Hamad International Airport to board my flight to Dubai. I went early three hours before my departure so I have time to check out the new airport that everyone is talking about. My flight leaves at 1 AM, and I arrived at 9:30 PM, so I have plenty of time to stroll.

I was very excited for numerous reasons. First of all, I worked here before with Bechtel and know how difficult it was to build this masterpiece. Secondly, we (as Qataris) are known for having an airport with no jet bridges and loooong bus rides. So, this airport is the pride of Qatar, and the international gateway to the nation.

The old airport used to be only 3 to 4 minutes away from my home, and I don’t mind the airplane noises—were used to it by now. Right now, it takes a good 20 minutes because of the detour. Not bad compared to other people of the country who take much longer—especially if you live in the northern cities of Qatar.

When I first entered the "exit" leading the airport, I was driving through luscious palm trees, and bridges over the Arabian Gulf beautifully build and leading to a lit airport terminal that I can see in the background. The whole area looked huuuge; and the not-yet-opened Emiri terminal was half lit. The sight of the thousands of parking shades to the left cannot be missed and reminded me of the tents that the Hajj pilgrims reside on during Arafat day in the Hajj each year. As soon as the terminal neared, the road began to diverge into several branches, and we slowed down to take the right path towards the "departures."



Once we arrived we clearly saw four gates, with the first one from the entrance dedicated to Qatar Airways First and Business Class passengers. The only thing that I would do different is to have a dedicated curb to the QR Premium Passengers. Right now, there is one looong curb and its for all the passengers—but cars would stop at the entrance of the dedicated entrance. There is nothing to stop an economy passenger from stopping in front of the dedicated entrance.

Check-In


Once I stopped my car there, a butler came to me and offered to take my luggage. I didn’t have luggage so I thanked him and proceeded inside the terminal. Once I entered, I was in awe at the sheer size and space of the new terminal space. I have been to the terminal before but never when the airports was in full operation. Once I entered I saw a huge red carpet with a nice looking QR lady greeting passengers as they walked in. I informed her that I was a First Class passenger and she guided me towards a row to the right of desks separated with glass dividers. A lady went behind the desk to proceed with the check-in. Another lady gave me a glass of juice and some hot towels to freshen up, while she have me the boarding pass towards my flight.

After I got my boarding pass, she guided me personally towards the end of the terminal towards passport control—which was a dedicated facility for the Premium passengers. I was the only one checking in at the time so there was no queue at all.

Once I finished passport control I would see workers working on what seems to look like an entrance for the soon to be opened Premium Lounges that QR is due to operated within the next months. However, there was an escalator which lead downstairs to the duty free area.









Duty Free-- a shopper's paradise!

After I went down, I was in the middle of the shopping heaven that is Hamad international Airport. The whole shopping experience took me in awe and the sheer size, layout, and types of shopping facilities that are available. The first thing I saw are the luxury brands like Bulgari, Rolex, GMT Watches, Hermes, Tiffany's, and the soon to be opened Burberry's. There were other stores that are still not opened—but Harrods is due to open soon. The Duty Free area unlike the old airport is not one consolidated area, but rather a series of shops each with its own brand and theme. However some of the shops are local concepts such as the electronics store Pulse, clothing store Junction, gourmet food market Marmalade, and other shops which I have pictures posted. There is literally a lot of choices to be spoilt from—and this certainly made my day. To me, I love an airport with a mall within. There is nothing like the joy of spending your cash buying things before your flight. I went to each of the shops and checked out what they have on offer. I was surprised to find the Google Glass on sale (for only $2500)—which I didn’t dare buy. I still don’t know what's the point of these glasses! There was also a couple of WHSmith stores selling newspapers, magazines, books, confectionaries, as well a Virgin Megastore, selling CD's, DVD's. I loved the experience of the whole Duty Free and reminded me a lot of Hong Kong Airport. Compared to Dubai's Terminal 3 (which I think is a zoo), this duty free reminded me of a spacious mall, crowded yet there is still loads of space for passengers to wander around. There is certainly no shortage of shops (even though there is still A LOT of more shops to open)! The lighting was perfect—not too bright like Dubai and not too dull—making it a perfect ambiance for those late night transfers.



































Urs Fisher's Teddy Bear


The Main Terminal (the central area) is crowned or centered around a giant 6 million dollar Teddy Bear made by renowned Swiss artist Urs Fisher. It is big. It is yellow. And it has a lamp sticking out of its back! It is clearly the center of attention. First of all, the Airport's three concourses, A B and C all converge into this Main Terminal with the bear in its midst. The area is sort of like the centerpoint of the Duty Free area, with shops all around it. I would image this area would have some cafes or other facilities.






Restaurants

While I was exploring the terminal, I was looking for the restaurants .And I found them. There are a some restaurants in the form of a large food court which most closely resembles what you would find in a mall. There are several restaurants including Burger King, an Indian restaurant, Italian, a coffee shop, sandwich bar, and Red Mango Frozen Yoghurt Café. The seating area was packed, but there were further seats towards the back of the food court overlooking the apron which was relatively unoccupied. I can imagine it would be nicer to sit during daytime and watch the planes from the food court. Apart from this, the airport boasts a Caviar restaurants with different alcoholic drinks, several coffee shops under the local-concept Jamoca Café, Marche (huge restaurant which I think will be the voucher restaurant). There are many other restaurants that are due to open soon. It is certainly a world apart from the old Doha.









Lounges and Hotel


Next I went to explore the lounges. I knew that QR did not open their dedicated First and Business Class lounges, but I wasn’t told that at the check-in. But I didn’t mind checking out the Gold and Silver lounges. I went towards the back of the Teddy Bear and went up the escalator where a QR lady told me if I was a First or Business Passenger. She directed me towards the First Class lounge which was original set to be for the Gold card passengers. The lounge wasn't large, but it was nice for its role. Big nice comfy seats, and an area where families could sit watching TV in a section of the lounge. Towards the end of the lounge, you can see the "buffet" which has a poor choice of food, but you can order from the menu—which surely beats any restaurant out there. I ordered the salmon steak and it was amazing—very gourmet! I was sitting under the large LCD screens and the light was very disturbing. I hope they would cover the glass ceilings with a bit of tint to dim the lights a bit.

Below are pics of the first class lounge:















I hopped over to the Business Class lounge to check it out. It was long, and a bit narrow; but perfect for Silver Card Holders. It was packed to the rim and very uncomfortable to sit, as it was fully packed. The Buffet there had more items than the Gold Lounge, but the food is amazing. The shower facilities were plentiful and not used by anyone when I checked them out. I would image this lounge being a quarter full once the QR lounges are completed.

Below are pics of the business class lounges and associated showers:










Next I went to the Oryx Lounge which was used for all non-QR premium passengers. I wasn’t allowed to enter despite being told I can as a First Class passenger. The lounge was spacious, and had a lot of empty spaces. I would certainly pay to enter them if I had a transit. I think QR should have used the Oryx Lounge instead of the Gold and Silver ones!

Oryx Lounge pics below:



The hotel is found on the level above the Oryx lounge—but it is still not in operation. I asked the security guard and he implied that it might open within 2 weeks as it is mostly completed.

Gates

After all the exhausting exploring, I proceeded to go to the Gate, which was located in Concourse C. It was Gate 12, an A380 gate; which had a large boarding area—the biggest I have seen. Concourse C has a wooden roof and is lined with two interior trains—, which are not yet operational. Long travelators cut through the middle with Gates to the right and left. The Terminal was packed with people—I wondered how they all managed to stay in the old Doha Airport which was not even a fraction of this airport. There are however plenty of places to sit including Quiet Rooms, Sleeping Rooms for men and women, and playing areas for kids, and other areas which is rare to find other airports. Then the best part—I was actually using a jet bridge to board a plane! It felt so good not using stairs.




















A330-300

The aircraft was an A330-300 A7-AED which first flew in July 2005, so its almost 9 years old, and it shows its age. It is configured in 30 J and 275 Y seats. There were only 6 other people in the cabin with me, so it was a relatively empty J cabin. I do not know the load factor back in Y.

The J seats are older lie-flat angled design and certainly a world away from the 787s and 777s and newer A330s. The seats are not bad for flights up to 7 hours, but certainly there are newer generation seats available. I cant wait for more 787s and A350s to join the fleet so these oldies will get replaced. Service was excellent though and I can't compare QR's 5-star service to other airlines. After sitting down I was served with Arabic coffee and dates, and then opted not to join the rest of the passengers for meals.

After being delayed for an hour, we finally took off at 2 AM and reached Dubai almost 4 AM, which I reached my hotel and dozed off!




Final thoughts


I have read a lot of reviews about the airport and in some websites and forums, the reviews were bad and in some they were good. Personally, I found the airport the best in Asia and one of the best in the world. The only inconvenience was the lack of lounge space of F and J passengers which QR will complete within the next two months. Besides, passengers traveling in F and J are compensated for 85$ for the Duty Free, which I happily took even though I sat in the lounge! I wish I knew someone in QR to recommend moving the Premium Terminal's old furniture to Hamad International Airport as a temporary lounge facility.

The airport is only 6 days old, and yes there were a few problems such as long transfer lines and some normal delays in takeoff's—but all the complaining isn’t really justified. Despite what people say, there IS a separated dedicated transfer lane for F and J passengers. Another complaint I read about is the air-conditioning, which I found adequate. Some passengers reported being too hot.

The airport is huge, so yes, there will be long walking distances. Most of the gates are designed for widebodies, so you can imagine walking wide wingspans! So, it's not like the previous Premium Terminal where there are bus transfers and virtually no walking distances. But people wanting jet bridges and people wanting no walking distances cannot have it both ways!

Since Doha is my original destination, I cannot judge the transfer process, but from what I saw, the airport is an oasis in the middle of the Arabian Gulf—something I would choose over Dubai or Abu Dhabi. DOH is just so different and more convenient than what we find in Dubai and Abu Dhabi—plus it is brand new and filled with the new luxury airport smell. What I love about it is that even though it is crowded at rush hour, it still feels airy and roomy and quiet! Yes, thousands of people but it is still relatively quiet with people certainly looking happy taking pictures of the bear or shopping around. I would certainly be excited to travel again just so I could experience the airport again, and see what new shops will be opened!

I hope you enjoyed ready my trip report and seeing my pictures! I will gladly answer any questions you might have.

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EPA001, fairul, HUMAN EGO, racso380, salman515 and 4 others liked this post
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Old June 4th, 2014, 12:18 PM   #2
patong tiger
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halawala thank you so much for the great report about HIA i enjoyed reading every word.and i am excited to live the experience after 4 days.
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Old June 4th, 2014, 04:23 PM   #3
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Thanks Halawala for your extensive review of this fabulous new airport.
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Old June 4th, 2014, 04:35 PM   #4
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Finally a real airport for Doha! For a premium carrier, I was surprised at how shoddy the old airport was. Looks like the premium check-in lines are the best in the industry.
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Old June 5th, 2014, 07:36 AM   #5
Halawala
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patong tiger View Post
halawala thank you so much for the great report about HIA i enjoyed reading every word.and i am excited to live the experience after 4 days.
Your most welcome! Cant wait to see what you think!

Quote:
Originally Posted by EPA001 View Post
Thanks Halawala for your extensive review of this fabulous new airport.
Your most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Finally a real airport for Doha! For a premium carrier, I was surprised at how shoddy the old airport was. Looks like the premium check-in lines are the best in the industry.
Thanks buddy! My two real favorite airports now are HKG and DOH and they both have very similar designs and layouts. To me, they are the most optimum in the aviation airport industry! Hopefully you will try it one day.
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Old June 6th, 2014, 12:36 PM   #6
firoz bharmal
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Thanks dude for sharing.........!
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Old June 6th, 2014, 03:47 PM   #7
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Great trip report Halawala!
It is quite disappointing that the lounges won't be complete for a few months. At least they offered you a $85 coupon.
The airport looks fantastic and the Oryx lounge looks so much better than the other lounges. Will there be a Oneworld lounge as well?
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Old June 6th, 2014, 11:24 PM   #8
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Nice but one question....Can I pay with € at the shops and restaurants or do they just take Qatari money?
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Old June 7th, 2014, 02:40 AM   #9
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U can pay with Euros and $$
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