FIFA World Cup 2022 brings unique opportunities for airlines and airports, says OAG

Qatar Airways & Dubai airports likely big winners of World Cup
/ New Delhi
FIFA World Cup 2022 brings unique opportunities for airlines and airports, says OAG

OAG says that in many ways, this World Cup will be different from any other major sporting event that has ever taken place

Based on an analysis of aviation data, in terms of airport capacity and airline schedules, aviation data analyst firm OAG says that with a major shift in demand likely in the short window offered by FIFA World Cup 2022 to be held in Qatar in November-December, Dubai Airports and Qatar’s national carrier Qatar Airways are likely to win big.
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With just about a month to go before the inaugural football match in the FIFA Football World Cup 2022 tournament in Qatar, excitement is building up rapidly and not just amongst the fans and the members of the teams that would shortly be heading to Qatar.

With the matches approaching, aviation data consultancy firm OAG says that airline capacity is likely to see a significant churn in the days leading up to the tournament. It says that typically, major sporting events tend to have a limited impact on total airline capacity to a destination during the event as a combination of locals staying at home and overpriced accommodation stock dampen all but the real fanatics from attending. But this World Cup will be different for so many reasons.

OAG says that in many ways, this World Cup will be different from any other major sporting event that has ever taken place as only football fans with tickets will be allowed to enter Qatar during the tournament, since there is a lack of accommodation stock, and the proximity of the stadiums is limited to a small geographic area.

‘‘The World Cup in Qatar promises to be very different to anything else that we have seen before. Perhaps the most intriguing element is how, with those operating constraints, will supporters be able to get to the matches? And that is where Dubai becomes the World Cup winner,’’ says OAG.

Bridging the Gap

OAG says that in order to overcome the possible lack of accommodation for the fans, Qatar seems to have adopted a simple solution and decided to use the accommodations available in the neighbouring countries. And that is where Dubai comes into its own, says OAG, adding that the latest data points to there being around 29,000 hotel rooms in Qatar, probably just enough for the 32 teams, their support teams, and the media.

In Dubai, there are approximately 115,000 hotel rooms and a further 25,000 rental apartments – so plenty of capacity, assuming the usual holidaymakers are priced out of the market for four weeks.

OAG, however, adds that moving so many football fans from one country to another or from Dubai to Doha, in this case, requires a huge degree of logistical planning and preparation.

OAG says that potentially fans could travel by road to Qatar from Dubai, however this is a six and half hour road journey and part of the journey requires travelling through Saudi Arabia. With no regular ferry between the UAE and Qatar, boat rental is an option, but only for the very rich given the types of boats available in Dubai, it says, adding that it leaves flying as the only viable option.

Renovated airports, new routes

OAG says that the smallest stadiums in Qatar are designed to accommodate 40,000 whilst the Lusail Stadium, that will host the final, holds 80,000. With the matches expected to be sold out, it means a large number of people will need to be moved in and out of Qatar quickly and on a daily basis.

‘‘And, not surprisingly, the local airlines have risen to the challenge – in only a way that the Middle East carriers can,’’ says OAG. It adds that the World Cup will see part of the air traffic headed to the two smaller airports in Dubai and Doha, the Dubai Al Maktoum International (DWC) and Doha International Airport (DIA). It says that both these secondary and generally out-of-sight and out-of-mind airports will be be bursting at the seams with new flights.

Working in partnership Qatar Airways and FlyDubai, the low-cost carrier of Dubai, are planning to operate as many as 54 flights a day between the two cities of which 43 will be to and from Al Maktoum International and 33 will be to and from Doha International. OAG says that the growth in flights before and during the World Cup is amazing.

It says that for instance, on November 7 there are six scheduled flights from Dubai to Qatar, three each by Qatar Airways and Flydubai, with about 1500 seats in all. It says that on November 21, the flight frequencies rise to 40 flights, 25 by Flydubai and 15 by Qatar Airways, with a total of 9000 seats.

OAG says both the airlines have adopted different routes to find the capacity to mount these additional flights everyday during the World Cup. It says that while Flydubai has simply gone ahead and chartered the additional aircraft that they need and it helps that Flydubai is flying narrow body Boeing 737s. The challenge for Qatar Airways is different as it is flying the wide-bodied Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s. OAG says that Qatar has simply juggled around its planes and cut capacity on some routes, especially of those countries which did not qualify for the World Cup, while augmenting flights to the countries whose teams are participating in the tournament.

The biggest change is for Spain where Qatar has doubled its capacity from 7460 seats on September 26 to 14906 seats on November 21. Iran also sees a big jump in capacity, rising from 4777 to 10408 seats and Saudi Arabia from 20605 seats to 25990 seats on November 21. Brazil, Germany and Croatia also see a significant rise in capacities.

To generate the additional capacities, Qatar Airways has cut seats to many Asian and African destinations. The biggest loser is Pakistan that will see its capacity drop from 17,747 on September 26 to 3,936 on November 21. Tanzania is also hit hard as capacity has slashed from 5053 seats to 924. Other big losers include Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

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