'Doha airport will not fail like Berlin Brandenburg'

CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, hits back at critics.
NEWS, Aviation


Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, has stated categorically that the issues which have led to the ongoing delays at Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport will not be repeated at Doha International Airport, despite the new facility missing its anticipated opening date this month.

“I will tell you something, the issue with Berlin is not going to happen in Doha airport because the systems that meant Brandenburg airport to fail was no coordination between several systems,” Al Baker said when asked if the delayed opening at Doha airport would be as bad as that witnessed in Berlin.

“At Doha International Airport the Chairman of the Civil Aviation has made sure that everything that is going to take place is properly coordinated and, for your information, we are already testing the systems for the last eight months.

“The reason we have the delay is not because there was any issue with systems. It is because one of the contractors failed us and that is why the delay has happened, it is nothing to do with similarities with Brandenburg and Doha International,” he added.

Doha International Airport was scheduled to open this month but the official inauguration has been delayed after it was revealed in May that Lindner Depa, a joint venture between Dubai-based interiors firm Depa and Germany's Lindner, had its 900-million dirhams (US$245.03m) contract terminated,

The contract to fit out the 17 lounges at the new $15.5 billion airport was the largest project in the Nasdaq Dubai-listed firm's backlog.

Depa, which is now in a legal battle with airport authorities, said the contract was pulled after Lindner Depa's "refusal to accept new and non-favourable contract terms and conditions ... after being denied full access to the project site to perform its contract scope of work."

The new Doha airport is 98 percent complete and US$15bn has so far been spent on its development, which will have a capacity to handle up to 48m passengers when complete, airport officials told Arabian Business during a tour of the new facility.

Al Baker’s positivity reinforces Doha officials’ aim to avoid the ongoing, high profile failures which have been experienced at Berlin’s new airport.

The Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, which is being built at a cost of €2.5bn (US$3.2bn), has already been delayed twice and the opening has now been pushed back to at least March 2013.

The government-backed airport was to replace Berlin’s three existing airports and was to be the main hub for airberlin, Germany’s second biggest airline.

Jürgen Pieper, an analyst at private bank Metzler, estimated the delays were costing loss-making airberlin, in which Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways owns a 29 percent stake, around $6m a month, the Spiegel German news agency reported.

While CEO Hartmut Mehdorn refused to confirm the exact figure, he dismissed the situation as “a mess” and said the carrier would pursue legal action if it was adequately compensated for the losses it has incurred.

“We are in talks with the Berlin Brandenburg Airport. We think they have to reimburse… if they don’t do this we go to court,” he said in an interview at the carrier’s headquarters in Berlin in September.

Mehdorn also dismissed reports which have suggested the delays are due to fire-safety tests which needed to be completed and blamed the government inadequacy for pushing back of the official opening.

“It is not the fire regulations. It is a big mess… It is politicians trying to build an airport. They should let guys who know about airports to build big projects.

“There are 82 million Germans available and I bet you will find 20 who have enough experience in constructing such as airport. Politicians are short-term thinkers and they just think about re-election and nothing else,” he said.

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