Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup later this year, and the country is expecting a massive influx of visitors passing through Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The huge increase in passenger numbers and additional airlines looking to temporarily fly to the Qatar Airways-dominated airport are causing the local airline to make some short-term but significant changes during the period.
Qatar Airways will withdraw from some routes during the FIFA World Cup
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told media attending IATA’s annual general meeting in Doha this week that the airline will have to restructure flight banks over a 30-day period to free up slots for other airlines that wish to fly to Doha and deploy capacity on routes where demand from football fans is highest, primarily routes to the 32 nations competing in the event taking place from mid-November to mid-December. Qatar expects more than a million visitors during the period. to the baker he said,
“We will have to pull out of many destinations to relieve capacity and allow other airlines to come in and use the slots. This will happen over a 30-day period… Some of Qatar Airways’ routes to countries not participating in the 32-nation tournament would be stopped and others reduced.”
Slots and gates temporarily handed over to other airlines
Akbar Al Baker, who makes a sport of being fickle with the media, declined to say which routes would temporarily face the chop. But with a simple process of elimination (eliminating the non-competing nations and the best performing routes) and the short list could be established quickly.
Dozens of airlines fly to Hamad International, but the airport is dominated by Qatar Airways, which has a stranglehold on slots and gates. But Qatar Airways is willing to give up some of both to make room for other airlines flying extra flights during the World Cup.
“We will have to restructure entire banks of Qatar Airways services to accommodate all the other airlines that want to come.” Al Baker said during a press conference. “There will be a great race.“
Large crowds are expected at Hamad International Airport during the FIFA World Cup. Photo: Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways cooperates with other airlines during the World Cup period
With many of its Airbus A350s out of service, Qatar Airways is considering calling on airlines in which it has equity stakes to fly additional flights to absorb expected passenger demand. Qatar Airways has a 25.1% stake in IAG, a 10% stake in LATAM, a 9.99% stake in Cathay Pacific and a 3.62% stake in China Southern Airlines. Cathay Pacific is an airline with many spare planes.
Qatar Airways is also encouraging other Gulf airlines to fly shuttles to and from Doha, including the former Doha International Airport. Up to 20,000 people a day could fly in from nearby cities earlier in the day and leave later in the day, alleviating an anticipated accommodation shortage in Doha.
“We also encourage our regional friends to start having shuttle services to Doha during the World Cup.” Mr. Al Baker said this week. “A few weeks ago, Qatar Airways partnered with flydubai, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air and Saudia to connect FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match ticket holders with Doha via match day connecting flights.” .
Qatar and the CEO of their hometown airline see the World Cup as a moment to shine. They are doing their best to accommodate football fans, but others with flights booked or planned passing through Doha during this period might find themselves looking for alternative options.