Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker confirmed on Tuesday that the Doha-based carrier was temporarily withdrawing from 18 destinations in order to free up space and capacity at its hub for FIFA World Cup passenger traffic.
During a presentation held in the Qatari capital to talk through the airline’s preparations for the massive soccer tournament, a journalist asked Al Baker whether Qatar Airways planned to add destinations to its route network ahead of the World Cup.
“Actually, no, we don’t have any new destinations,” Al Baker said. “Quite the contrary, we have reduced and withdrawn from 18 destinations in order to make space at Hamad International for new airlines to come to bring fans.”
In June, Al Baker had warned that Qatar Airways could axe between 15 and 20 routes ahead of the World Cup in order to add extra capacity from key markets for fans who have secured tickets for the tournament.
“Our priority, today, is not Qatar Airways’ network, our priority is to give access to all the countries that are participating (in the World Cup) and need to bring large numbers of passengers,” Al Baker explained.
“I’m very happy to say we now have many airlines that are now applying to come to Hamad International for the first time. Lufthansa want to restart their operations, we have Air France, KLM and many other carriers that want to come,” he continued.
In addition, Al Baker said there would be “many charters coming from destinations that Qatar Airways has no plans to operation,” as well as “hundreds of executive jets,” that would further constrain capacity at Hamad International Airport.
In order to create additional passenger capacity, Qatar has reopened Doha International Airport which sits on the opposite side of a major freeway from Hamad International. A slew of airlines, including Etihad and flydubai, have been temporarily moved to Doha International for the next few months.
Etihad and flydubai will be taking part in a ‘shuttle service’ between Doha and other cities in the region with up to 160 flights per day operating just to transport soccer fans for match days.
From 1st November, Qatar will close its borders to foreign visitors unless they are already in possession of a confirmed World Cup match ticket. All match ticket holders must also apply for a special visa known as a ‘Hayya Card’ that will grant them entry to Qatar, access to stadia and free travel on public transport.
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.