DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar Airways moved all of its operations to a new multi-billion dollar airport in its capital of Doha on Tuesday, greeting passengers who touched down with roses, dates, coffee, chocolate and Qatari flags.
The Mideast airline said the move to Hamad International Airport marks "a milestone" for the national carrier, which began operations just 17 years ago. The first Qatar Airways flight to touch down Tuesday was a short one, about 50 minutes long from nearby Bahrain.
"The moment we have all been building towards for many years arrived today as QR1113 touched down, marking the historic start of our full operations at the world-class Hamad International Airport," said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker in statement.
A ceremonial Qatar Airways flight landed in the new airport last month after years of delays in building the vast new facility. Tuesday marks the official move of Qatar Airways to Hamad International, making the airport fully operational.
The natural-gas rich Gulf nation is working hard to transform itself into a major aviation hub as it prepares to host one of the world biggest sporting events, the soccer World Cup in 2022.
Like the nearby United Arab Emirates, Qatar has invested heavily in its aviation sector in recent years. Qatar Airways last year placed orders for more than 60 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
The new airport, which cost at least $15 billion to build, has 70 retail outlets and around 30 cafes and restaurants. It is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the center of Doha and just 2.5 miles from Doha International Airport, which will be used for helicopter flights, military operations and as a general aviation college.