Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup later this year and the country expects a huge influx of visitors to pass through Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The large increase in passenger numbers and additional airlines looking to temporarily fly into the Qatar Airways-dominated airport are causing the hometown airline to make some short-term but significant changes over the period.
Qatar Airways will withdraw from some routes during the FIFA World Cup
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, told media attending IATA’s annual general meeting in Doha this week that the airline will need to restructure flight banks over a 30-day period to free up slots for other airlines that want to. fly to Doha and deploy capacity on routes where demand from football fans is highest, mainly routes to the 32 nations competing in the event which will run from mid-November to mid-December. Qatar expects over one million visitors in the period. Al Baker said,
“We will have to withdraw from many destinations to increase capacity and allow other airlines to come and use the slots. This will happen over a 30 day period … Some of Qatar Airways’ routes to countries not involved in the 32-nation tournament would be cut off and others curtailed. “
Slots and gates temporarily sold to other airlines
Akbar Al Baker, who enjoys being fickle with the media, declined to say which routes would temporarily face the blow. But with a simple process of elimination – eliminating non-competing nations and best-performing routes – the shortlist could quickly be established.
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 ready to divest some of both to accommodate other airlines staying on extra flights during the World Cup.
“We will have to restructure entire Qatar Airways service banks to accommodate all other airlines that want to come”, Mr. Al Baker said during a media briefing. “There will be a great rush.“
Large crowds are expected at Hamad International Airport during the FIFA World Cup. Photo: Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways works with other airlines during the World Cup period
With many of its Airbus A350s out of order, Qatar Airways is looking to invite the airlines in which it has shares to invest in extra flights to absorb anticipated 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 reserve aircraft.
Qatar Airways is also encouraging other Gulf airlines to operate shuttle-style flights to and from Doha, including the old Doha International Airport. Up to 20,000 people a day could arrive from neighboring cities earlier in the day and depart later in the day, easing the expected housing squeeze in Doha.
“We are also encouraging our regional friends to start having shuttles to Doha during the World Cup”, Mr. Al Baker said this week. “A few weeks ago, Qatar Airways formed a connection with flydubai, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air and Saudia to connect ticket holders for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup matches to Doha via match day shuttle flights. “
Qatar and the CEO of his hometown airline see the World Cup as a time to shine. They are doing everything to accommodate football fans, but others with booked or scheduled flights passing through Doha during this time may find themselves looking for alternative options.