Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker confirmed on Tuesday that the Doha-based airline is temporarily withdrawing from 18 destinations to free up space and capacity at its hub for FIFA World Cup passenger traffic.
During a presentation in the Qatar capital to discuss the airline’s preparations for the big soccer tournament, a journalist asked Al Baker if Qatar Airways planned to add destinations to its route network ahead of the World Cup.
“Actually no, we don’t have any new targets,” Al Baker said. “On the contrary, we have reduced and withdrawn 18 destinations to make room at Hamad International for new airlines that are coming to bring fans.”
In June, Al Baker warned that Qatar Airways could cut between 15 and 20 routes ahead of the World Cup to add additional capacity from key markets for fans who have secured tickets to the tournament.
“Our priority today is not Qatar Airways’ network, but access to all countries that are participating (in the World Cup) and have to carry large numbers of passengers,” explained Al Baker.
“I am very happy to say that we now have many airlines applying for Hamad International for the first time. Lufthansa wants to resume operations, we have Air France, KLM and many other airlines that want to come,” he continued.
In addition, Al Baker said there would be “many charter flights from destinations that Qatar Airways does not plan to operate” as well as “hundreds of executive jets” which would further limit Hamad International Airport’s capacity.
To accommodate additional passenger capacity, Qatar has reopened Doha International Airport, located across a major highway from Hamad International. A number of airlines including Etihad and flydubai have been temporarily relocated to Doha International for the next few months.
Etihad and flydubai will participate in a “shuttle service” between Doha and other cities in the region with up to 160 flights per day, used only to transport football fans on matchdays.
From November 1st, Qatar will close its borders to foreign visitors unless they already have a confirmed World Cup match ticket. All ticket holders must also apply for a special visa known as the “Hayya Card” which allows them entry into Qatar, access to the stadiums and free travel on public transport.
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