Official match ball Fifa
Booking tickets for the World Cup later this year will no longer be as exorbitant as Dh7,000 and over. Airlines are seeing to it that football fans can land up in Doha without digging too deep into their pockets. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Flights to Doha for the FIFA World Cup matches are getting less costly as more UAE and Gulf carriers confirm additional services during the matches in November and December.

Dubai-Doha flights are now listing for a little over Dh1,700 the day before the World Cup. From Abu Dhabi, tickets are from Dh1,000-Dh6,000. Flying into Doha from Riyadh and Jeddah will cost around Dh1,400.

Air Arabia has become the latest Gulf carrier to join the list of those running additional flights during the Wold Cup phase. The low-cost carrier will fly an additional 14 shuttle flights daily from Sharjah to Doha. Etihad Airways will operate 42 weekly flights during the event, compared to the 18 weekly flights it operates between Abu Dhabi and Doha currently.

Not less than two months ago, fares to fly to Doha from Middle East destinations were at sky-high levels with some quoting even Dh7,000. The situation has changed dramatically with airlines such as flydubai and Saudia announcing shuttle flights during month long event, which is expected to pull in more than 1.2 million fans from around the globe.

PIA joins in

Other airlines are also looking to cash in on this opportunity. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced that it will operate flights connecting Karachi and Lahore to Doha from July onwards.

“PIA is rapidly expanding its network,” said the airline on Twitter. “After Islamabad to Doha flights, PIA is adding flights to Doha from Karachi and Lahore as well. So, don't miss out on your plans to visit Doha for business, work or to watch the FIFA World Cup.”

Travel agents said that it was hard to gauge the level of demand for the World Cup given that airlines and FIFA are handling most of it. “As far as the local agents in UAE and Doha are concerned, we are not even looking at this event because neither the hotels nor the airline inventories are in our hands (as yet),” said Suraj Ramesh from Al Badie Travel Agency. “We might get a true indication of ticket sales now that match fixtures are out.”

Airlines have also said that predicting demand in later stages of the event would be difficult. “This is a very dynamic process because we don’t know who will win and which country will see a sudden demand,” said Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways’ CEO, during a press conference last month.

Limited capacity

Qatar Airways has been encouraging more airlines to ramp up flights to Doha during the event. Last week, Al Baker said that capacity was already tight due to the grounding of its A350 fleet amid a dispute with Airbus. “We have to withdraw from many destinations in order to relieve capacity,” said Al Baker.

Travel requirements

For travel from Dubai, flydubai has said that match day shuttle flights can be booked for an adult or child in Economy from $258 (Dh950) and in Business from $998 (Dh3,665). There’s also an onboard snack included in the cost of the fare.

These are special fares which are non-refundable and do not include a checked baggage allowance, so passengers will need to carry everything they need in the hand baggage (which can weigh up to 7 kg in Economy and up to 14 kg in Business).

The passenger must be a ticket holder to the football tournament to be eligible for a shuttle flight. Guests will also need to apply for a Hayya Card - a fan ID - which will be required to enter Qatar as well as to access the stadiums. All shuttle flights will be operated from Dubai World Central (DWC) between November 21 and December 19.