Qatar Airways’ flagship business class and first class lounges are already known for their sprawling footprint, but the new Al Mourjan lounge is set to dwarf them both.
Set to open in 2022 at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, the lounge will occupy a staggering 9,000m² – that's 97,000ft², or around 2.2 acres – and include a gymnasium and spa facilities as well as several restaurants.
It’s part of an ambitious expansion plan to reshape HIA as an "airport of the future” – the centrepiece of which will be a lush indoor tropical garden covering 10,000m², with a 268m² water feature.
If that sounds familiar, it should be: the HIA plan is clearly intended to "out-Jewel” the stunning indoor rainforest-waterfall of Singapore’s Changi Airport (below).
"Somebody copied our design, which was already on the table six years ago," said Qatar Airways CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, who is also CEO of Hamad International Airport. "We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, who took that and did it (themselves)."
However, Al Baker said one difference between "the jewel of Hamad International" and the Airport Which Shall Not Be Named is that "one is a shopping mall, and one is an international airport."
Featuring flora from sustainable forests and plantations around the globe, selected to acclimatise to the airport’s indoor conditions, the garden will dominate a new central concourse linking the current D and E concourses and thus serve as a focal point for all travellers.
Walking tracks will weave their way around the garden, flanked by "contemporary retail and dining concepts among other leisure attractions and facilities."
The project will also add nine more gates for the twin-aisle aircraft which form the bulk of Qatar’s long-range fleet, while a new transfer area will reduce connection times.
A bigger lounge to meet growing demand
The new Al Mourjan lounge will complement rather than replace the existing lounge, and feature dramatic views overlooking the gardens.
"We plan to revolutionise the global passenger experience" Al Baker tells Executive Traveller – and forecasts point to a flood of passengers, soaring above the current tally of 35 million travellers per year to more than 53 million per year by 2022.
The D and E concourses will in turn be expanded after 2022 to further raise that capacity ceiling north of 60 million passengers per year.
However, while the airline and its hub pride themselves on speedy connections for transiting passengers, Al Baker expects an increasing number of travellers will opt to spend longer in the airport or even in the city.
"Some passengers prefer to have fast connections," he tells Executive Traveller. "We also have passengers who choose to take the next flight because we have many (flights) to a single destination."
"Some people want to stay longer at the airport, and we also want people to stay overnight in Doha, so we offer very attractive (overnight hotel) packages."
David Flynn travelled to Doha as a guest of Qatar Airways.