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I’m back in my by now regular Interim Qatar Airways Bureau, en route from Singapore Changi Airport to Hamad International Airport in Doha.
As I begin this Blog, I am precisely 33,478 feet above ground, flying over Kelang, Malaysia and towards the Strait of Malacca. Outside, an almost impossibly perfect pattern of ghost-white cloud puffs has formed, offering an ethereal, touching on heavenly, backdrop as I write.
Tomorrow, I will preview the inauguration of the Hamad International Airport (HIA) Expansion, set I can promise you to be a modern-day wonder of the airport world. I’ve walked the development twice* in recent months, wowed by the scale, the vision, the (managed) frenzy of construction and the leadership and management’s determination to create something extraordinary.
The real thing – to be unveiled tomorrow – will be on another level altogether. You’ll have to wait for my full report but as a retail and food & beverage proposition alone I can promise you a combination of concepts, class and creativity that represents a step up from anything we have yet seen in the airport world.
I’m deeply privileged to see such things in my working life, especially on an preview basis as is often the case. I take none of this for granted. I still have the same sense of wonder about travel, airlines and airports that I had when I took my first international flight way back in the mid-70s from Christchurch to Sydney. When I look at the ever-changing flight map in front of me, I am filled with curiosity about the places, communities and individual lives I am flying over.
I leave Singapore behind me with some of the fondest memories of my 35-year career in this business. The warmth of our Changi Airport Group hosts; the tangible feeling of reunion and rebirth among Trinity Forum delegates; and the sheer joy of human encounters with friends and colleagues. Including some nice reunions and striking of new friendships.
As I said in my last Blog, it felt like Trinity reborn and that feeling has been reaffirmed by scores of positive comments from delegates on social media and follow-up notes to me and my colleagues.
I departed from Changi Airport Terminal 1 today, with a last-minute flight choice meaning I did not have time to visit the other terminals as planned. T1 is Changi’s oldest terminal, having served Singapore so well for the last four decades.
There’s plenty of newness and revival coming though, as you can see from the photos below, with big name openings or reopenings from Louis Vuitton, Dior, Burberry and Tiffany all lined up. Korean travel retail duo The Shilla Duty Free and Lotte Duty Free are steadily gearing up business too and everywhere there is a welcome sense of business returning to something approaching usual.
Lots of happy memories then from Singapore and more about to be created, I suspect, as I head to a dazzling destination in Doha without even having to leave the airport.
In fact, I am signing off this Blog from Doha, in room 301 at Hamad International Airport’s recently opened Oryx Airport Hotel to be precise. It’s just metres away from a frenzy of activity (currently ringed off) as workmen put the final touches to the Expansion Project.
I can see plenty of what’s on offer but I’m not going to ruin tomorrow’s big surprise when everything will be ship-shape. Get ready for a new wonder of the airport world.
*20.30 9 November: Make that three times I have walked the Expansion as I have just had a sneak preview on the eve of the inauguration. What I saw (and what passengers will see) redefines the airport experience. Not the Hamad International Experience, any airport experience. I can’t give any more away than that before tomorrow. But I promise you, the story will be worth the wait.