Dubai: For now, there is partial relief for anyone wanting to take a flight to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup matches later this year, with more flights being added from UAE to Doha bringing rates down significantly. This rate drop, however, may be a fleeting one.
“The lower fares are only there for a limited number of seats,” said Subair Valappil of Regal Tours. “After these tickets are sold out, prices will be going up - again."
For now, a flight from Dubai International (DXB) to Doha’s Hamad Airport will cost around Dh1,800 on November 20, the day before the mega sporting event opens. Fares from Abu Dhabi are even lower, with some flights costing less than Dh1,400. Back in February, online booking sites were showing indicative rates of Dh6,000-Dh7,000 for the period.
A flight connecting Riyadh or Jeddah to Doha will cost passengers Dh1,340. Kuwait is offering some of the cheapest rates with most airlines charging around Dh1,000, while a flight from Muscat to Doha will be around Dh1,300.
“There is a huge interest from other airlines to operate both scheduled and charter flights during the FIFA World Cup into Doha,” said Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways’ CEO, during a virtual interview last week.
Qatar Airways, the country’s flagship carrier, is expected to get the biggest boost from the two-month event. The airline, which grew its market share in the long-haul market during the pandemic, has hired new staff, expanded its network, and maintained key routes.
“The volumes of people showing interest to come here gives us the feel that it will be a very successful event,” said Al Baker. “We are very well prepared, and we are looking forward to delivering the best experience to the spectators and to the teams”
To handle the influx, Qatar has refurbished its old Doha airport, which was the country’s commercial international air hub until Hamad opened to the public in 2014.
Category 1 tickets for the final match cost $1,100 in 2018; they now cost roughly $1,600 (Dh5,876), an increase of 46 per cent, according to Statista.
The opening match costs between $55-$618 (Dh202-Dh2,269) and seats to the quarterfinals are going for $82-$426 (Dh301-Dh1,564) depending on the seating category. The semi-finals have ticket prices starting at $137 (Dh499.54).
flydubai, which works closely with Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates airline, currently operates daily flights to Doha. “We will see if there’s a need for (more) capacity, but based on the demand we see today, we believe it's sufficient for the point-to-point traffic between the two places,” said Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer in an interview with Gulf News last month. “We will look at (adding more capacity) if there is a requirement.”
Not just airlines, Dubai’s high-profile hospitality sector will be among the biggest beneficiaries. Mark Kirby, head of hospitality at Emaar Hospitality, which operates the Vida and Address hotel brands, said it is hard to estimate the sporting event’s impact on tourism in Dubai.
“When you look at the supply of rooms that we have in the city, it means we will obviously have that spillover effect,” said Kirby during the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) event.
Dubai Tourism CEO Issam Kazim expects tourist numbers to be closer to 2019 levels by the end of 2022. “We should start seeing numbers getting a bit more realistic from where we left off (because of the pandemic) by the end of this year or starting next,” said Kazim.