Gulf carriers will operate day-time shuttle services to Doha from Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait City and Muscat, said Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, during an event in Doha.
Dubai-based flydubai will operate up to 60 daily flights, Kuwait Airways will fly up to 20 flights a day and Oman Air will operate 42 daily flights. Saudi flag carrier Saudia will operate up to 30 daily flights.
The shuttle services will be operated from Doha airport, which has been refurbished for the event. The airlines will continue to operate their normal scheduled services, said Al Baker.
"Flights will be scheduled to arrive (in Doha) up to 5 hours before the match," said the Qatar Airways CEO. "After the games, fans will have plenty of time to travel to Doha before heading home."
"There will be additional flights that will be operated together with our joint partners," he said. "The intention is to make the fan experience as seamless as possible and ensure everyone can enjoy this World Cup."
Tickets for the match day shuttle flights will be made available soon.
Doha airport will be processing 5,000-6,000 spectators an hour, while Hamad airport – Qatar Airways’ base – will process 8,000-10,000 passengers, said Al Baker. “This all depends on the airspace capacity and the performance of the airlines that have requested the timing to operate – there will be no room left for delays or holding times.”
In order to serve the World Cup markets, Qatar Airways will remove many destinations from its network and also reduce frequencies on certain routes.
“This is in order for us to make the aircraft available to carry spectators,” said Al Baker. “This is a very dynamic process because we don’t know who will win and which country will see a sudden demand.”
Those flying to Doha on a shuttle flight will need to carry a Hayya card, match ticket and a return boarding pass. Al Baker urged passengers travelling for general purposes to continue using normal scheduled flights.
“It’s not a shuttle flight for convenience, it is to come and watch the match,” said Al Baker. “Each airline will have their own systems on how they will address these issues in a very clear way on their websites.”
The World Cup, which is expected to bring in 1.2 million visitors from around the globe, has some wondering if Doha alone will be able to accommodate the huge influx of fans.
That’s where the shuttle service comes in.
“These flights are there for spectators to watch the match and go because accommodations will be in short supply,” said Al Baker. “We are not unique – even countries like Russia and South Africa suffered shortages when they hosted the tournament.”
flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said that the World Cup will make a big contribution to Qatar’s economy. “Having recently hosted an Expo, we know first-hand the positive impact of such events not only on the travel and tourism sector, but also the wider economy,” he said.
The Dubai-based carrier will be operating the shuttle flights from Dubai’s Al Maktoum airport. The airline recently moved several of its flights to the emirate’s second airport as Dubai International’s northern runway stays closed for refurbishment work.
“We selected DWC (Dubai World Central) and part of the airport will be dedicated to the shuttle service,” said Al Ghaith.
Oman is also working towards making travel easier between Muscat and Doha. “We are working with an events company to make it easier for passengers to travel in and out,” said Abdulaziz Al Raisi, CEO of Oman Air.
Flights to Doha will be considered ‘domestic’ to facilitate seamless travel between the two Gulf cities, said Al Raisi, adding that the airline would try to bring down the fares to a ‘minimum’ to allow more fans to travel.
Saudia will operate 30 wide-body flights to Doha daily, out of which 15 will be from Riyadh and the rest from Jeddah.
The airline may add more destinations to its shuttle network, if there is demand, said Ibrahim Koshy, Saudia's CEO.
"We will coordinate to see the demand based on the allocations of the FIFA tickets - even other cities will be considered like Dammam," said Koshy.
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