Airport review: Hamad International Airport, Doha

THE AIRPORT

Hamad International Airport (DOH)

THE FLIGHTS

QR70 from Frankfurt, economy; QR909 to Sydney, economy

THE ARRIVAL

Hamad International has just been crowned the World's Best Airport by Skytrax for the second year in a row, so you expect things to be pretty wonderful when you arrive here, and by and large, they are. No annoying security check upon entry into the terminal: at Hamad you disembark the plane and you're straight into the main concourse, strolling around, taking it all in. (Or at least you would be if your plane, like mine, wasn't parked on the tarmac somewhere that requires a bus transfer.)

THE LOOK

Hamad International is frequently lauded for its modern, spacious design, and it's no surprise to find that this whole facility is less than 10 years old. Perhaps the most memorable part of the Hamad look is the inclusion of several large-scale art installations, including "Lamp Bear", a giant yellow bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, and "The Playground", a series of bronze sculptures that double as children's play equipment. There's only one terminal at Hamad, with five concourses, making it very easy to navigate.

CHECK-IN

As with many passengers visiting Hamad International, I'm transiting here, arriving from Frankfurt and then boarding a flight to Sydney a few hours later, so I don't need to use the airport's check-in facilities.

SECURITY

One of the great things about transiting through Hamad is that you aren't immediately subjected to a security queue and a rescreening of everything that was just checked at the other end of your flight. Here you enter the concourse directly, and then there's a small wait, maybe 10 minutes or so, to go through a security check to enter my boarding gate.

FOOD AND DRINK

For the world's number one airport, Hamad International doesn't exactly have an embarrassment of food options – certainly not compared to, say, Tokyo Haneda or Singapore Changi. There are a few high-end sit-down restaurants, and two food courts, one in the main shopping plaza (near Lamp Bear), and the other at the far end of concourse C. I'm opting for one of the few traditional, local dishes available here: lamb shank machboos from Azka, in the main food court, which sets me back the ungodly sum (for food you eat with plastic cutlery) of about $40. Still, it tastes good.

RETAIL THERAPY

No shortage of places to spend up big at Hamad International. Wander the main shopping plaza with credit card in hand and you could find yourself the new owner of Dolce and Gabbana clothes, Bulgari jewellery, a Hublot watch, a pair of Jimmy Choos, a Mont Blanc pen and a Hermes bag to store it all. Or you could just head to the duty-free shops and feed your face with chocolates and sweets.

PASSING TIME

There's free wi-fi at Hamad, and myriad power points to charge devices. Don't have a phone or laptop? The airport also has multiple free desktop computers to use. Alternatively, you could hire a "Sleep Pod" or a hotel room for a snooze, relax in a "quiet room", book in for a massage or a shower, or head to the Vitality Wellbeing and Fitness Centre (entry fee 175 QAR, or AU$70), and use the lap pool, gym, shower room, and even a squash court.

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THE VERDICT

The world's best airport? Hamad International is certainly up there. My personal preference is Tokyo's Haneda – which came second in Skytrax's recent announcement – because of its superior food offerings, but Doha's transit hub does provide a slick, modern experience. There are downsides, however, and a well-publicised incident in October 2020, in which multiple women were removed by Hamad officials from a Sydney-bound flight and forced to undergo medical examination to determine if they had recently given birth, will linger long in some memories.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Ben Groundwater travelled as a guest of Emerald Cruises, emeraldcruises.com.au