Transiting through Doha’s old airport

On my 2012 trip to Europe I flew with Qatar Airways – one of many Middle East based carriers who fly from anywhere to everywhere via their petrocurrency funded airports. At the time of my flight the current Hamad International Airport had not yet yet opened, so I passed through Doha’s original international airport – and it was quite the avgeek‘s paradise.

Qatar Airways on final approach to Doha

Opened long before Qatar Airways became a player on the world stage, Doha International Airport had only a single runway and no jet bridges – air stairs and buses were used to transfer passengers between terminal and plane.

Qatar Airways A330-200 rego A7-ACF at Doha

On arrival to Doha my plane was met by two sets of mobile stairs and a fleet of air conditioned buses.

Air stairs approach the rear door of our plane after arrive at Doha

Down the stairs and into the desert heat we went.

Heading down the stairs at Doha to our waiting transfer bus

With the last passengers onboard the bus, we left our 777-200LR behind on the tarmac.

Leaving behind our plane at Doha after a 14 hour flight from Melbourne

Out on the apron, there were dozens more jets waiting for their next load of passengers.

Qatar Airways A321 rego A7-AID and A320 rego A7-ADI on the eastern apron at Doha

The bus weaved our way around the apron, passing tugs towing ULD containers full of freight.

Cargo containers and transfer buses pass Qatar Airways jets at Doha

We also watched as aircraft trundled past on the parallel taxiway.

Qatar Airways A320 rego A7-AHE taxis past the access road at Doha

Unlike any other airport I have passed through, Doha’s baggage handing system was housed in open air sheds alongside the aprons.

Open air sheds house the baggage handing system

Inside the staff were trying their best to avoid the desert heat.

Baggage handlers avoid the harsh desert heat

Our bus continued the long drive around the runway and back to the terminal.

Aircraft level crossing on the eastern side of the Doha International Airport perimeter road

Navigation equipment could be found between the road and the runway.

Navigation equipment on the eastern side of the runway

I also spotted an aircraft level crossing, necessitated by the heavy road traffic crossing the taxiways.

Aircraft level crossing on the eastern side of the Doha International Airport perimeter road

We didn’t get held up by any planes, but we did have see a number of jets take off from the parallel runway.

Qatar Cargo 777-F rego A7-BFA takes off from Doha

As we got closer to the terminal, the amount of road traffic grew heavier.

Transfer buses and ULD cargo containers on the move around the perimeter road

Our first stop was the Arrivals Terminal – destination for the handful of passengers who are entering Qatar. Since I was just transiting through, I stayed on the bus.

Airside of the Doha International Airport arrivals terminal

Next we passed the Emiri terminal – VIP gateway for the Royal family, high government officials and visiting dignitaries to Qatar.

Airside of the Emiri terminal at Doha International Airport

But our final destination was the main departures terminal.

Gate lounges at the lower level of the departure terminal at Doha

Duty free shopping is how the airport management would like passengers to spend their time (and money!)

Looking down on the duty free store in the departure terminal at Doha

However recharging their mobile phones is what many opt for instead.

Passengers sit on the departure terminal floor, seeking out power outlets

The food options were rather poor – the main food court consisted of just four fast food restaurants.

The only restaurants in the Doha International Airport departure terminal

I opted to do some planespotting – with no jetbridges, the view out the window was wide open.

Action out on the north-western apron at Doha

When my flight was called, I made my way to the ‘gate’ – in reality an escalator to the bus bay on the ground floor.

Gate 9 at Doha International Airport - the escalator to the downstairs bus bay is behind

There we queued for the next bus out to our plane.

Waiting to board buses out to the plane at Doha

The buses have six doors per side and plenty of standing room, but there was only one other passenger on my bus.

Onboard a transfer bus to our plane at Doha International Airport

We left the terminal and headed back onto the apron.

Passing taxiing jets on the western side of Doha International Airport

Where our plane was waiting for us to board.

Finished unloading via the rear stairs

Qatar Airways uses a “banked hub” model for their operations in Doha, so there was a long line of jets waiting to take off ahead of us. We slowly made our way to the southern end of the runway.

Qatar Airways jet taking off from runway 33 at Doha

There were at least four more Qatar Airways jets in the departure queue behind us.

Four more Qatar Airways jets in the departure queue at Doha

Eventually we made our way to the threshold of runway 33, but we had to wait for an arriving jet to clear.

Waiting for an arriving jet to clear runway 33 at Doha before we take off

It was now our turn to take off.

Takeoff from Doha International Airport

Moments later we were up in the air.

Looking down on Ras Abu Abboud Street

As we bid farewell to the city of Doha.

Looking down on the Al Shamal Road

Footnote

A full set of aeronautical charts for Doha International Airport can be found on the website of the Civil Aviation Authority of Qatar. Charts of particular interest are:

The January 2015 edition of the Qatar ‘Electronic Aeronautical Information Publication’ has the full details.

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