Qatar's Hamad International: World's most luxurious airport?

Standard advice says it's best to get to the airport two hours ahead of departure time. Anyone flying via Qatar's Ham...

Posted: Mar 27, 2018 1:24 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2018 1:24 PM

Standard advice says it's best to get to the airport two hours ahead of departure time. Anyone flying via Qatar's Hamad International might want to double or even triple that.

Not because there's any extra hassle getting through security at this gleaming, ultramodern facility. In fact, if you've signed up to its E-passport scheme, you'll be through in minutes.

Nope, it's because you're going to want to spend that extra travel time wallowing in what is probably the most luxurious airport on the planet.

It's possibly the coolest, too.

Opened in 2014 with the ambition of turning the Arabian Gulf city of Doha into a global aviation hub serviced by Qatar Airways, HIA now handles more than 30 million travelers a year.

But passengers walking through its beautiful hallways and lounges outside of peak periods could be forgiven for thinking they were the first to ever set foot in the place.

Silent and spotless

Every gleaming surface of its lavish departure and arrival areas is spotless.

The destination is completely quiet, too. Beyond Islamic calls to prayer which are made five times a day, HIA is a silent airport.

There are no jarring announcements to disturb the calm, and at certain times it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Not that you'd find so much as a dropped pin in this hyper-clean place..

The full HIA experience begins on the approach - currently only possible by road, but a rail link should open in time for Qatar's 2022 hosting of soccer's World Cup finals.

It's a majestic structure.

Built on land reclaimed from the sea, the architecture reflects its coastal location with a rooftop that ripples away from the concourse in swooping peaks and troughs. An adjacent mosque resembles a giant blue droplet of water.

Inside, departing passengers walk into a lofty check-in hall, illuminated in daytime by bright sunlight shafting down from scores of lozenge-shaped skylights.

It's here they're likely to have one of their first encounters with the things that make HIA so unexpectedly cool -- the artworks.

Subversive art

OK, airport art isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, but when was the last time anyone actually recalled encountering any?

At HIA, no one's going to forget it in a hurry.

Some of it is subtle, like the playful fake birds that sit atop the information displays at the front of the airport.

Other pieces stop everyone in their tracks.

Like "Lamp Bear" by subversive Swiss artist Urs Fischer -- a giant, surreal, yellow teddy bear sitting under a black lamp. It's such an arresting sight in the main departure hall that there's a near-constant knot of people in front of it, grabbing selfie shots.

Deeper in, by the far departure gates is another eye-catching piece of radical modern art. "SMALL LIE" by celebrated New York pop artist KAWS is a new addition, installed in March 2018 in an operation that involved removing an entire wall of the airport.

These are pieces of work that some fanatics might actually travel here to see.

An airport on the edge of Arabia seems a surprising place to find groundbreaking pieces of modern art. HIA hopes this element of surprise will help set it apart from rival air hubs.

"What makes HIA special is our innovative exhibition space," Badr Mohammed Al Meer, the airport's chief operating officer, tells CNN Travel. "We like to say that our airport is the gateway to arts and culture."

There are currently more than 20 permanent art installations at the airport. Anyone with a few hours to kill could do a lot worse than hunt them all down.

Surrealistic sculpture not your scene?

That's OK, HIA has plenty of alternatives up its sleeves.

Exclusive atmosphere

For standard passengers passing through, there are plenty of the usual airport restaurant and retail options, but also numerous upscale boutiques. Gucci, Burberry, Coach, Rolex, Swarovski are all here.

Want to just flop in a chair? Even the communal area seating is fancy -- all Italian-style chrome and leather.

Can't be bothered to stand on the moving walkways to reach your gate? There's a futuristic indoor train to speed you there even faster.

There's a fantastic airport gym too -- open to any passengers who want to book themselves in for a session. It has an inviting 25-meter swimming pool, a full range of workout equipment, two squash courts (although these may get turned into a golfing area), plus hydrotherapy and spa treatments.

The sports facility is attached to HIA's Oryx Hotel, a 100-room transit accommodation that matches the rest of the airport for quality and cleanliness. Guests can check in, for eight hours or longer, to standard rooms or larger family suites with five or six beds.

Passengers lucky enough to be flying business or first class with Qatar Airways are in for the real treats.

The biz class Al Mourjan lounge is the kind of place some weary travelers will probably have to be dragged out of in order to make their flight.

This place is as big as it is luxurious. It measures 10,000 square meters, including Instagrammable water features, and has capacity to handle up to 1,000 passengers at a time.

It's still quiet though, with the atmosphere of an exclusive club. Guests can sit at individual tables equipped with tablets that offer departure info to ensure they don't miss their flight.

There's a full, formal restaurant (with a private room for celebs and minor royalty that don't get to use the Qatari emir's private airport), a bar stocked with top-class booze (alcohol is available at the airport and on Qatar Airways flights), and other more casual dining options.

There are showers, sleeping booths, private rooms for families, a games area equipped with X-boxes and a fussball table, facilities for business meetings, Mecca-facing prayer rooms and a nursing area for new moms, complete with milk-warming facilities.

Inbound business class travelers can also make use of a separate arrivals lounge, with it's own private immigration desk.

Airport nirvana

Not posh enough? First class Qatar Airways ticket holders can hustle over to the other side of the main lounge and ride the escalator to airport nirvana - the Al Safwa lounge.

Designed to closely resemble Doha's prestigious Museum of Islamic Art (the work of renowned architect I. M. Pei), this departure lounge feels like hallowed ground. With capacity for 530 people -- way more than it usually handles -- there's enough room to escape.

Guests killing a few hours can make themselves comfortable in cubicles equipped with oversized swivel chairs that would suit the most fiendish Bond villains.

They can dine in style with a four-course menu accompanied by fine wines drawn from a wine cellar worthy of a French chateau.

If they want to catch a movie, there's a private cinema. If they want to sleep, there are private bedrooms that can be booked for four-hour slots.

Best of all, there's a beautiful spa straight out of a seven-star resort. Those taking advantage of its tranquility may struggle to remember they're in an airport.

None of these luxurious offerings have escaped the notice of aviation industry reviewers Skytrax.

At its 2018 awards in Stockholm, the UK-based organization named HIA as the best airport in the Middle East for the third year in a row. It also bumped it up its global rankings, based on passenger surveys, from sixth to fifth place.

While recent regional sanctions against Qatar have closed off some air routes, potentially dulling its appeal as an aviation hub, HIA has its sights set on further success.

It expects to welcome 50 million visitors annually by 2022.

"Although being one of the youngest airports in the world,-HIA joined the 'top tier of global airports,' becoming-the sixth airport in the world to receive the '5-Star Airport' designation by-Skytrax," says Al Meer.

"HIA's ambition in a nutshell is very clear: we aim to become the world's best airport by providing the best passenger journey and by positioning the airport as a destination on its own."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 87807

Reported Deaths: 2002
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25454917
Ramsey10349316
Dakota6995125
Anoka5596132
Stearns367023
Washington349255
Scott236632
Olmsted225327
Nobles192016
Blue Earth15566
Wright14937
Carver13197
Rice12908
St. Louis128229
Mower12614
Clay121340
Sherburne106313
Kandiyohi9112
Winona82818
Lyon6344
Steele5132
Freeborn5043
Nicollet49516
Watonwan4954
Benton4923
Todd4722
Le Sueur4413
McLeod4382
Waseca4228
Chisago4211
Crow Wing41018
Otter Tail3734
Beltrami3654
Goodhue3219
Martin2909
Itasca26413
Polk2624
Becker2372
Pine2360
Isanti2340
Carlton2311
Douglas2291
Cottonwood2140
Pipestone2089
Morrison1901
Dodge1880
Chippewa1851
Sibley1693
Meeker1662
Wabasha1660
Unassigned16552
Brown1642
Murray1492
Rock1450
Yellow Medicine1442
Mille Lacs1363
Faribault1290
Jackson1251
Cass1233
Renville1206
Roseau1090
Pennington1081
Fillmore1050
Houston1040
Swift1041
Kanabec1008
Koochiching1003
Lincoln950
Redwood930
Stevens901
Pope820
Hubbard710
Aitkin691
Big Stone660
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen451
Lac qui Parle410
Red Lake370
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 78552

Reported Deaths: 1255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15133256
Johnson496227
Woodbury486561
Black Hawk431686
Linn3722105
Story326317
Scott271227
Dubuque266140
Dallas265338
Pottawattamie195137
Buena Vista193312
Marshall175634
Sioux12753
Wapello124357
Webster118414
Muscatine105452
Clinton104618
Plymouth100120
Cerro Gordo98621
Crawford9804
Warren9226
Jasper74232
Des Moines7247
Marion7014
Tama68531
Carroll6275
Henry5974
Lee5857
Wright5571
Dickinson4756
Bremer4597
Boone4557
Washington42711
Louisa41915
Franklin33117
Mahaska32619
Delaware3183
Hamilton3143
Jackson2923
Floyd2913
Winneshiek2835
Benton2781
Clay2773
Hardin2731
Winnebago26211
Butler2572
Clarke2533
Emmet24810
Shelby2411
Jones2393
Allamakee2375
Poweshiek2368
Lyon2323
Buchanan2291
Clayton2273
Cedar2171
Guthrie2115
Kossuth2090
Chickasaw2030
Grundy2002
Madison1992
Sac1980
Cherokee1792
Howard1795
Iowa1791
Fayette1781
Mitchell1750
Hancock1712
Harrison1692
Humboldt1693
Calhoun1672
Mills1621
Palo Alto1560
Pocahontas1502
Monroe14410
Page1410
Lucas1386
Jefferson1321
Cass1282
Monona1281
Osceola1210
Appanoose1193
Taylor1191
Union1193
Davis1134
Van Buren1081
Worth1000
Keokuk891
Montgomery855
Ida840
Greene820
Fremont790
Wayne792
Adair621
Decatur580
Audubon551
Ringgold412
Adams270
Unassigned150
Rochester
Few Clouds
56° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 56°
Mason City
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 56°
Albert Lea
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Austin
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 57°
Charles City
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Warmer Weather Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday Weather

Image

What are the benefits of bringing football back to Minnesota this fall?

Image

Candlelight vigil for Prisoners of War

Image

MC Masters National Championship Regatta

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

Dooley's Pub closes due to health hazards

Image

Area athletic directors prep to welcome back sports

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

TikTok Ban to Begin This Weekend

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Friday

Community Events