The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar is reopening an old decommissioned passenger airport next month so that the country can cope with the massive influx of visitors expected during the FIFA Soccer World Cup in November and December.
Doha International Airport (DIA) was closed to routine passenger operations in 2014 after the country opened Hamad International Airport (DOH) on land reclaimed from the sea adjacent to the old airfield.
Although Hamad airport is already able to cope with 30 million passengers per year and is undergoing an expansion to double the number of passengers it can handle, capacity, especially for takeoff and landings, is still going to be stretched to its limits.
The two airports are separated by a major highway, but DIA has its own single 4,570-metre runway, and the old passenger terminal is able to cope with around 12 million passengers per year.
From next month, a slew of regional airlines are being temporarily moved into DIA including the likes of flydubai and Jazeera Airlines.
Some of these carriers are taking part in a World Cup shuttle service that will see Doha handle more than 160 flights on some match days just for soccer fans. The shuttle service was announced earlier this year after it emerged that Qatar didn’t have nearly enough hotel rooms to cope with demand during the tournament.
Instead, soccer fans are being encouraged to stay in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Manama and then make day trips to Doha on special soccer flights which will only be available to passengers who have also secured match tickets.
Qatar has been working on its facilities at DIA since 2019, and although the airport isn’t routinely used for passenger services, the airfield is still utilised by Qatar’s airforce and the Royal Air Wing.
Even with the special shuttle flights and extra capacity at DIA, Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker says the airline will be forced to “sacrifice” a handful of routes to free up aircraft and slots for the World Cup.
The tournament is due to be held between November 21 and December 18.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.