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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A guide to traveling through Qatar’s airport during the winter rush

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Chris Hoare / Flickr
Hamad International Airport

The coming week will be a very busy one at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (HIA).

The beginning of the long-awaited school winter break, the National Day holiday and the proximity of Christmas will all combine to bring about “a rapid increase in passengers,” HIA’s management has told Doha News.

This is the new airport’s first winter travel season, and despite the expected flying frenzy, it’s likely to be a more comfortable experience for travelers than last December, when over two million passengers squeezed and queued their way through Doha International Airport, a facility that was universally acknowledged to have stretched beyond capacity several times over.

There’s no doubt that HIA dwarfs the old airport. Its Twitter account boasts that 3,550 Land Cruisers could fit into the check-in hall alone. But there are still a few crunch points, like immigration and security, that are expected to feel the pressure at peak times this winter.

Here’s what you need to know to make your journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Parking

The airport’s long term parking will remain free throughout the winter holidays. A free shuttle bus from the parking lot to the terminal operates at regular intervals.

parking
Parking at HIA

The short-term car park is also free for the first 30 minutes, and then costs QAR5 for each subsequent hour.

Baggage

If you’d like to make sure that your slightly travel-worn suitcase doesn’t spring open halfway across Europe, a baggage wrap service, Seal and Go, is now available in the departures hall by check-in rows two and eight.

Check-in

If possible, make sure to check-in online in advance to select your seat, as some popular flights are likely to be overbooked. Qatar Airways passengers can do so 36 hours prior to departure, except those flying to the US, who can check-in 24 hours before they leave.

Takahiro Hayashi / Flickr
Takahiro Hayashi / Flickr

HIA’s Chief Operation Officer Badr Al Meer has said passengers should arrive at the airport three hours before their flight departure time during busy periods “to ensure a smooth and relaxed experience before flying.”

He also recommended that passengers print their boarding passes before arriving at HIA to reduce their check-in time upon arrival. Note too this tweet from frequent flyer Paul McCormick:

Immigration

Even if you’ve already checked in, it might be prudent to arrive far in advance of your flight, as it’s hard to estimate the queues at security and immigration, which can be incredibly slow at peak times.

@RoryWSJ / Twitter
Long immigration lines.

It’s also worth noting that some of the airport’s gates are a long walk away from immigration, so allow for plenty of time.

We asked our followers on Twitter to give us their tips on traveling through the airport, and lots of them recommended getting hold of an e-gate card.

These allow residents to pass through automated gates at immigration, bypassing long queues. Details of how to obtain one can be found here. They cost QR150 for a year, QR250 for two years and QR350 for three.

It’s important to note, however, that children are not eligible for e-gate cards, meaning that adults traveling with kids are often forced to queue, despite signing up for service.

Lastly, to avoid hold ups and disappointment at the airport, make sure you triple check all of your documentation before you travel. It’s incredibly easy to overlook an expired residence permit or absent exit permit, only to arrive at the airport to find you’re denied permission to leave.

Those feeling nervous about the validity of their exit permits can double-check using this handy online tool by inputting their Qatar ID numbers – great for peace of mind before you fly.

New shops

More than 70 shops are now open at HIA.

15855921761_bbaf2f2706_k
Qatar Airways / Flickr

Recently opened outlets include luxury international brands Giorgio Armani, Armani Junior, Coach, Hugo Boss and Mont Blanc, as well as Al Motahajiba, which sells designer abayas and shaylas.

Here’s a map of the airport’s shops and restaurants.

New restaurants

The airport also continues to open new food outlets.

14930074117_b14c42d50b_k
Qatar Airways / Flickr

Relatively new additions include Italian restaurant Soprafino, run in conjunction with celebrity chef Massimo Capra; Qataf Café, named after the Qatari national flower, which serves up Arabic snacks and coffee; and French bistro Le Grand Comptoir, which features pianist accompaniment in the evening.

Currency

Passengers traveling through HIA in its early days used to complained about a lack of ATMs. This now seems to have been sorted, with 16 multi-currency ATMs now dotted around the site.

travelex
HIA / Twitter

There’s also a new Travelex counter in the check-in hall between rows 8 and 9, in addition to the existing counter in airside departures by the Oryx lounge.

Lounges

After initial delays, HIA has now opened more than 20 individual lounges.

lounge
HIA / Twitter

These include the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge for Qatar Airways First and Business Class passengers (pictured above) and the pay-per-use Oryx Lounge, which offers complimentary food and drink, a business center and a games room for kids. Economy Class passengers can gain access to the facility for QR140 (US$38).

Rest and relaxation

If you’ve got a bit of time to kill, the airport offers quiet rooms for men and women in departures. And if you’ve got a lot of time, there’s now the option of the airport hotel, which opened in September.

The Airport Hotel
The Airport Hotel

Rooms here can be booked for periods as short as four hours for QR560 (US$153). More details can be found on the hotel’s website here.

Attached to the hotel are the airport’s spa, gym, swimming pool and squash courts.

Access to these are free for hotel customers, or accessible to non-customers for a fee of QR120 (US$33).

Do you have any other tips? Please comment below to share your advice with travelers.

12 COMMENTS

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AEC
AEC
6 years ago

That’s not quite true about adults with kids and e-gate cards. We go through the e-gate and the kids go the family lane next to it by themselves. They just have to hold their passports up above the counter so they can be seen. Seems to work fine and no queues involved.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

This must be a very recent occurrence as it’s never worked like that for us … always been turned away by unhelpful immigration officers

bleh!!
bleh!!
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

same happened to me

Chipper fluffypants
Chipper fluffypants
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

It’s pure luck. sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t.

bleh!!
bleh!!
6 years ago

i just passed through HIA last week. and let me tell you it was horrid. most of the staff incl the information counter didn’t know where the baby strollers were or where the business class lounges were and even the family rooms. finally i had to ask some of the cleaners/other passengers there who actually knew where the lounges, family rooms and the strollers were.

has anyone seen the arrows pointing to the oryx lounge? its actually confusing..

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

“If possible, make sure to check-in online in advance to select your seat, as some popular flights are likely to be overbooked”. Hopefully just full and not overbooked.

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Leave all hope ye who enter HIA :))))

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

…..and is having an exit permit any guarantee that things will be fine and you will get through especially for people leaving for good and there that there will be no other issues to stop your journey to the exit gates. Should a exit permit not be issued at all in the first place by the authorities if there are any pending issues like bank loans, pending payments, vehicle fines, court cases, etc, etc…

JasonMH
JasonMH
6 years ago

Just a warning about the free parking shuttle bus: They are absolutely horrendous. They are tiny vans that have NO SPACE for luggage whatsoever. Passengers are forced to try and navigate down an aisle that would barely fit a carry on, let alone full sized suitcases. Then you are expected to either place them on the adjacent limited seats or put them on your lap!! These buses hold 12 passengers maximum, so you do the math on this. There was a queue waiting for the bus with zero organization and everyone fighting to cram themselves and their luggage onto the bus. What an absolute joke. Typical that nothing is ever done correctly in this country.

nevillepettersson
nevillepettersson
6 years ago

Does anyone know what roads are closed on the 18th travelling to HIA from Education City? I’m probably thinking the Corniche is closed, but unsure?

Blue
Blue
6 years ago

Roads ain’t closed – on the corniche you’ll have to dance with the rest of the crew and most probably reach the airport on the 19th.

Take 22nd feb road (north road), get onto E ring and then the new F ring road to HIA

nevillepettersson
nevillepettersson
6 years ago
Reply to  Blue

Thanks Blue, good advice.

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