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This coming winter, Qatar is set to be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup which will see tens of thousands of football (soccer) fans descending on the Middle Eastern state to support their national teams. For Qatar Airways, this represents a considerable challenge as it now has to work out how to transport all of these fans from and to their home countries.
Thanks to an ongoing disagreement with Airbus, the Qatar Airways fleet is currently smaller than it was meant to be (so much so that the airline has brought back its A380s to make up for the shortfall) and this is leaving Qatar Airways short of aircraft to cope with the demand it will face in November and December.
There are two problems that need to be addressed.
Firstly, thanks to an ongoing disagreement with Airbus, the Qatar Airways fleet is currently smaller than it was meant to be (so much so that the airline started flying its A380s again) and this is leaving Qatar Airways short of aircraft to cope with the increased demand it will face in November and December.
Secondly, because Qatar Airways dominates air travel to/from Qatar, most long-haul carriers don’t operate more than a single daily flight to Doha (if they offer a flight at all) and this means that most of the world’s major carriers don’t currently have enough space at Doha International Airport to accommodate any extra flights that they would like to add to their schedules to cater for the World Cup.
To counter this issue, the Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has confirmed that his airline will have to restructure its schedules to ensure that it has enough aircraft to cope with significantly increased demand on select routes and to make room for other airlines to increase their own services to Doha [HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo].
This week, Al Baker has been chairing the IATA AGM in Qatar, and in a press conference on the final day he said that his airline would be “sacrificing [its] network for a period of 30 days” and that it would “have to restructure entire banks of Qatar Airways services to accommodate all the other airlines that want to come”.
No further specifics were given but it’s believed that Al Baker will be calling upon airlines in which Qatar Airways has an equity stake (e.g. BA, Cathay Pacific, and LATAM) to help counter any aircraft shortfall, and while no one has named the routes on which services will cut, it’s probably safe to speculate that Europe and South America will see services increased and that it will be services to/from parts of Asia that will be trimmed.
To give you an idea of the scale of the issue that’s being faced, keep in mind that not only does Qatar Airways have to make sure that it has enough aircraft to service long-haul demand and that its own schedule has been restructured sufficiently to allow other carriers to increase their services to Doha, but it also has to make sure that it can operate a significantly increased short-haul schedule to accommodate the thousands of fans that are expected to make Qatar’s regional neighbors their home for the duration of the World Cup and who will want to fly in and out of Qatar to get to the games.
Leaving aside all the political issues surrounding this World Cup, Qatar and Qatar Airways face multiple significant logistical challenges between now and November so it will be interesting to see how well (or badly) things turn out.
Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup between 21 November and 18 December 2022 and Qatar Airways has now confirmed that it expects to have to cut services on select (and as yet unnamed) routes to allow it to deal with increased demands from other parts of its network and the increased demand from foreign carriers for access to Doha International Airport.