Qatar Airways will be forced to suspend between 15 and 20 routes in November and December in order to free up capacity for the FIFA World Cup when hundreds of thousands of soccer fans will descend on Doha for the month-long competition.
By temporarily curtailing flights to a score of destinations, Qatar Airways will be able to concentrate on transporting soccer fans from key markets in Europe, South America and the United States.
Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways announced the plan during a press conference on the final day of the International Air Transport Association’s annual general meeting which the airline is hosting in Doha.
As well as suspending certain, as yet unnamed routes, Qatar Airways also plans to ask airlines in which it has bought equity stakes to help bolster capacity for what Al Baker believes is going to be a “huge rush” of passengers.
The FIFA world cup is set to take place between November 21 and December 18 – much later in the year than is traditional because the idea of playing in Qatar’s searing summer heat was quickly rejected.
“At this time, we are sacrificing the Qatar Airways network for a period of 30 days,” Al Baker told the conference on Tuesday. “There is such a huge rush during the FIFA World Cup – we have to restructure entire banks of Qatar Airways services to accommodate all the other airlines that want to come”.
Airlines that are likely to assist Qatar Airways include Cathay Pacific in which the Qatari airline owns a 10 per cent stake.
Qatar Airways is facing difficulties in ramping up capacity because at least 21 of its Airbus A350 aircraft remain grounded due to a paint defect that the airline believes poses a safety issue.
Both Airbus and European air safety regulators disagree and the airframer is preparing to challenge the accusations in a court battle scheduled to take place next summer.
Doha Hamad International Airport is set to become a hive of activity over the World Cup period with several Gulf-based carriers preparing to operate as many as 160 flights per day between Doha and other cities in the region as part of a ‘shuttle service’ for soccer fans with confirmed match tickets.
Al Baker has described the shuttle flights as a way to share the economic benefits of the World Cup throughout the Persian Gulf but it will also help alleviate the huge pressure being felt by the tiny state of Qatar to host so many soccer fans.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.