As the Fifa World Cup in Qatar draws closer, private jet companies are bracing themselves for an intensely busy season, as VVIPs, dignitaries and football fans rush to secure flights in and out of Doha, with the UAE serving as a main hub for flight operations in the region.
Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of global business aviation company VistaJet, told Khaleej Times that the company has seen a significant uptick in demand to Qatar during the period of the World Cup, particularly around the opening ceremony and later stages of the tournament – with over 70 flights from around the globe already booked. “There's obviously some people that are waiting to see if their favourite team gets past the qualifying rounds… We strongly encourage our clientele to book with us as early as possible, even with a private jet, given the restrictions, and the amount of volume of flights that Doha is expecting, you need to be well organised and well-structured.”
While some long-haul flights are being booked directly from Asia and Europe, most of the interest the company is receiving is from within the GCC, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This is in line with the general sentiment that the Emirates will become a hub for global travelers who are planning to use Dubai and Abu Dhabi as a base, allowing them to travel into Doha for games and then back again on the same day.
“A big percentage will be coming through the UAE, whether it's staying in the UAE or spending one night in Doha, and then coming back again. But a big majority of people are using Dubai and Abu Dhabi as hubs during that time.
Moore added that due to the high demand, the company is limiting flights mainly to their existing or long-term customer base. “You buy guaranteed availability for events like this, where there's going to be a spike in demand. So the majority of our flights in and out are our long-term loyal clients, that will go to the World Cup, or they might even know the region quite well and do business there. They're combining the two as well.”
“I would say that the big benefactor of the World Cup as a secondary country, is the UAE region. The UAE is going to be a big benefactor not just in terms of aircraft movements, but hotels, and the overlay of everything that comes from that. We were seeing that already… with our parent company Vista being based in the DIFC, we see Dubai as a major hub for us from a business perspective,” said Moore.
Based on the demand so far, the company anticipates that their floating fleet will be flying back and forth between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar on an almost daily basis for the duration of the World Cup.
Moore explained one reason for clients preferring to fly in and out is the limited availability of hotel accommodations in Doha. “If they had access to hotels they might stay an extra one or two nights but the reality is it's very, very limited, and very, very busy, and people would prefer to use other regions as a hub and then come in and out for the games.
“Our clients tend to get what they want, and when there's a scarce resource like the best hotels, they'll prefer to get back to Dubai or Abu Dhabi where they guarantee them.”
In August, DC Aviation Al-Futtaim (DCAF), a joint venture between Stuttgart-based DC Aviation GmbH and Dubai-based privately owned UAE business conglomerate Al-Futtaim, noted a spike in requests for private jets to Doha as football fever kicks in ahead of the games.
In order to cater to the rising demand, the joint venture will offer special charter flights from Dubai to soccer fans to head to Doha and support their teams. The round-trip charter flights to the biggest sporting spectacle in the world will offer UAE-based fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their favourite team in action.
The Fifa World Cup is scheduled to be held from November 21 to December 18.
Currently, the UAE carriers flydubai, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia and Qatar’s national carrier Qatar Airways operate flights between the two countries.
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