I will be honest when Hamad International Airport opened I was a little miffed. The old airport was at the end of my street. I could be off the plane and home in a matter of minutes. But the mammoth new airport, which has already welcomed 120 million passengers has grown on me – it has so much to offer travelers, especially on Qatar Airways, beyond being a means to an end in air travel.
Here’s what I love about this airport and what you should be looking for when you fly through here:
You can only have so many coffees to pass the time between flights. The art installations at HIA go beyond the big, yellow bear and encompass unique pieces by Qatari and international artists. Check out the playground on concourse C which is actually a series of connected pieced by American sculptor Tom Otterness. Inside the Al Safwa First Class lounge you will find a large scale work by acclaimed US artist Keith Haring.
2. The Lounge Life
Speaking of the lounges, HIA and Qatar Airways lounges ave been earmarked by business and leisure travelers as some of the most luxe in the world. Whether it’s quaffing the Krug in the Al Safwa Lounge or ordering a made-to-order sandwich in the Al Mourjan business lounge you won’t be disappointed.
Lounges offer newspapers, computers and of course a spread of food. Even if you aren’t flying up the pointy end, for QR200 (US$55) you can access the Oryx Lounge in Doha and be fed and watered in style.
Perhaps you are short on time between flights or you are on a tight travel schedule but you still want to see a new city. Thanks to the airport and Qatar Airways and the good folks at Visit Qatar, you can take one of one scheduled tours each day, all designed to coincide with key international arrivals. The tour visits key landmarks including: The Pearl Qatar, Katara Cultural Village, which celebrates arts and heritage; the bustling and fascinating Souq Waqif, for traditional jewellery, spices and handicrafts; and the iconic Museum of Islamic Art. You can visit the desk in the airport or pre book on the website above. Remember Qatar is offering a free transit visa for 80 countries which makes heading out to explore during your transit easy.
4. You can get a massage or swim a few laps
Inside the airport is the Vitality Spa and Wellness Center which houses a 25 meter indoor pool, gym, squash courts (racquets, balls and shoes provided!) and a hydrotherapy tub. Entry is QR175 (US$48). The Center plus offers a range of massages and treatments to soothe travel weary muscles. the signature massage is QR340 (US$93). Just make sure you don’t miss your flight!
OK, so for most this ins’t a big deal. But let me tell you, at the moment this is the only place in Qatar where you can ride a passenger train. The Doha Metro is under construction and a couple of years off, but here at the airport you can shuttle between and north and south “nodes” on this train. You can easily spot those who live in Qatar on the train – we’re the ones taking photos and videos!
5. And of course…the food
Believe me when I say there is more to the food at the airport than a quick burger and a cold coffee between flights. You can check out my full guide of where to eat here, but the airport continues to open new eateries and cafes to keep hungry passengers happy. My picks are the lush Caviar House and Prunier for a glass of bubbles and some decadent seafood pre flight.
If I have an early morning flight, I love to also grab a luxe breakfast at Le Grand Comptoir, a slice of France.
If you are transiting through, checkout Qataf cafe for a slice of Qatari hospitality. Concourse A – where many A380 flights leave from, now has a healthy and delicious grab-and-go option in Del Monte. Fresh salads and made-to-order sandwiches plus coffee, smoothies and cakes are the perfect antidote to a long-haul flight. The airport and Qatar Duty Free will be adding new outlets in coming months – follow them here for updates.
For any traveler – seasoned or novice – airports are a necessary evil. Some, like Hamad International Airport, make it a little more bearable. What do you think of the airport?