Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways Image Credit: Francois Nel /Gulf News

Dubai: The New Doha International Airport will officially open next December 12, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said yesterday during the Arabian Travel Market.

He said the project's costs, which until now were estimated at $14.5 billion (Dh53.2 billion), have gone up to about $15.5 billion. "There will be another expansion to go to the ultimate stage by which we will add another $2 billion to it," he said.

However, Qatar Airways will not start operating from the new airport this year.

"While the new airport will officially open on 12-12-12, it may not be this year that we will start operating," Al Baker said.

The airport is expected to handle 28 million passengers.

The carrier said it is looking to launch 13 new destinations this year including services to Myanmar and Iraq, in addition to capacity upgrades on some existing routes.

The carrier had withdrawn from Myanmar due to the political situation.

"The changing political landscape in Myanmar presents tremendous business opportunities and Qatar Airways is extremely delighted to be re-entering this destination that clearly will be one of the hottest markets in Asia for travellers from across our diverse international network," said Al Baker.

The company is also exploring hospitality opportunities in the capital Yangon.

"We would like to look at it. We haven't yet looked at any opportunity. Maybe we will open hotels in Myanmar," said Al Baker.

The airport is being developed in three phases to be completed by 2015.

Qatar Airways, which plans to fly to 170 destinations over the next three years, will see its fleet size exceed 120 aircraft this year, Al Baker said.

Freighter talks

Qatar Airways will convert up to 22 of its Airbus A330 passenger jets into freighters by mid-June, according to CEO Al Baker.

He said that the airline was likely to make an announcement at the upcoming Farnborough Airshow.

"We are in talks with EFW, and are negotiating the delivery schedule. We hope that we should conclude something possibly by the Farnborough Airshow. It would be between 15 and 22 aircraft," he said.