Coal gasification wastewater is mainly from gas washing, condensation and purification processes in the gas furnace with high NH3-N (nitrogen in water in the form of free ammonia (NH3) and ammonium ion (NH4+)), TN (total nitrogen) and refractory organics content, which will inhibit the subsequent biological treatment. The ‘air stripping – hydrolysis acidification – air stripping’ process was proposed as the pretreatment for coal gasification wastewater to improve the biodegradability and nitrogen removal, which could reduce the subsequent biological treatment load. The first-stage air stripping process before hydrolysis acidification could achieve a significant removal of NH3-N (97.0%) and volatile phenol (70.0%), reducing the corresponding toxicity on hydrolysis acidification. The group with air stripping had more abundant microbial communities and a more effective organic degradation performance in hydrolysis acidification than that without air stripping. The second-stage air stripping removed NH3-N released from hydrolysis acidification, and significantly reduced the TN concentration in effluent. The whole process achieved a TN removal from 2,000 ± 100 mg/L to 160 ± 80 mg/L, and a total phenols removal from 700 ± 50 mg/L to 80 ±20 mg/L.