Qatar Airways to axe flights from 18 destinations to relieve capacity for FIFA 2022

Close up of a Qatar Airways A380 in flight with wheels down.
Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – The Qatari national carrier Qatar Airways has announced today that it will be axing flights to 18 destinations on its route map ahead of upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022. The move is to adjust network capacity in order to create smooth travel routes between various competing football nations and the host country of Qatar.

As the FIFA World Cup 2022 is all set to kick-off from next month at host nation Qatar, the gulf nation is gearing up to welcome football fans and supporters from all across the globe to witness the magnificent football event being hosted in the Middle East for the first time in its history.

Qatar Airways is recognised for its strategic route development and expansions strategy with emphasis on creating more hub and spoke destinations from its hub at Doha. In post pandemic aviation recovery phase, Qatar Airways has outperformed with consistent load factor along with introduction of new routes to attract more European and Asian travellers.

Speaking on this announcement, Qatar Airways Chief Executive, Akbar Al-Baker said that, “The priority was now to accommodate the hundreds of flights that will touch down at Hamad International Airport (HIA) for the sporting mega-event.”

Mr. Al-Baker further added that “Actually no, we don’t have any new destinations” when prompted at press conference as to whether Qatar Airways is planning more route expansions plans ahead of the World Cup.

Qatar, the host nation of FIFA 2022 is expected to welcome more than 1.2 million football fans for the event between November and December 2022, with athletes travelling from 32 countries.

As the scope of upcoming aircraft movement has been forecast to reach HIA’s optimum level, Qatar Airways has expressed that it is set to reduce its capacity at Hamad International Airport in Doha to accommodate additional carriers during FIFA 2022 World Cup.

Expressing his thoughts on this announcement, Al-Baker stated that “We have reduced and withdrawn from 18 destinations in order to make space at Hamad International Airport to bring fans. Our priority is not Qatar Airways’ network but giving access to all countries participating and bringing in large numbers of passengers.”

With this announcement, the slots will go the other international carriers including One World carrier British Airways which has scheduled its A380 on its LHR-DOH_LHR route during FIFA 2022 World Cup using Qatar Airways slots at London Heathrow.

Some Win – Some Lose

After announcing cuts to 18 destinations from its network, Asian subcontinent has been seen as one of the most affected regions on Qatar Airways route map with India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh seeing sharp drops Qatar Airways flights during this event.

However, post this announcement, various international carriers and charter operators will be seen debuting to Qatar on the occasion of FIFA 2022. Following British Airways, SkyTeam alliance KLM-Air France and Lufthansa are restarting their operations to Qatar after significant gap, stated Al-Baker in press conference.

Being a Middle Eastern nation, Qatar is expecting significant football fans up to 1.2 million ferrying from various middle eastern nation onboard 500 shuttle flights and various other charter and private jets on daily basis to witness this sporting event.

To smoothen travel between these nations to Doha, Qatar Airways has formed a strategic partnership with Kuwait Airways, Oman Air and Saudi Arabian Airlines.  

During the press conference, it was also addressed that several charter flights, private jet operators and ferry flights from neighbouring nations will operate flights to Old Doha International Airport to reduce the capacity at Hamed International Airport and in return, Qatar Airways will not operate any flights to the old airport to create extra capacity, and welcome international airlines and additional ferry flights.

Carriers like FlyDubai, Nepal Airlines and Air Arabia have already stated that they will be operating to the Old Doha International Airport to beat the capacity constraint and add more flights between respective nations and FIFA host city Doha.

On the shuttle and ferry flight perspective, airlines from Gulf region have pledged more than 160 daily flights to Qatar between 20 November and 18 December to facilitate smooth and efficient movements of fans and spectators.

On the other hand, FlyDubai is set to deploy 60 daily round trips carrying over 2500 fans between Dubai and Doha. Saudi Arabian will operate 40 daily flights and Kuwait Airways will operate 20 flights on each day, according to Badr Mohammad Al Meer, COO of Hamad International Airport.

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