Dubai Airports is expecting a surge in passenger traffic at Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai's second hub known as DWC, as shuttle flights prepare to carry World Cup fans between the emirate and Doha next week.
FlyDubai and Qatar Airways will operate up to 120 daily shuttle flights in and out of DWC between November 20 and December 19, carrying football fans to Doha for the game and back to Dubai, Dubai Airports said in a statement on Tuesday.
The shuttle flights and additional charter flights taking travellers to the Fifa World Cup games are expected to increase the passenger demand at DWC “threefold” over the coming weeks, the state-owned airport operator said.
The number of passengers through DWC is forecast to exceed 494,000 in the final three months of the year.
“A spike in demand of this magnitude would pose a challenge for any airport, but we have had some recent practice,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, referring to the temporary relocation of more than 1,000 flights a week from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to DWC for the 45-day long repairs of the northern runway at DXB.
“The collaborative spirit within the airport community here in Dubai is strong and it will go into overdrive in the coming weeks to convert this challenge into a great opportunity.”
The latest analysis by travel data firm ForwardKeys shows that flight bookings to Qatar from the 31 countries competing in the football World Cup finals, and from the UAE where many fans are basing themselves during the tournament, are currently 10 times the volume of pre-pandemic levels.
The data is based on issued flight tickets, including day trips, as of September 29, for travel to Qatar between November and 14 and December 24.
In terms of growth, the source market set to perform most strongly during the World Cup period is the UAE; where bookings are ahead by 103 times the volume of 2016, the company said.
The UAE’s strong showing is explained by a shortage of accommodation in Qatar. Many people are expected to stay in the UAE and fly over for the day, on match days.
Currently, day trips account for 4 per cent of all arrivals in Qatar during the World Cup, 85 per cent of which originate in the UAE, ForwardKeys said.
Its analysis also shows that many World Cup visitors are also travelling to other destinations in the region. Dubai is the biggest beneficiary of this trend by far, capturing 65 per cent of onward visits.
The next most popular onward destination is Abu Dhabi, with 14 per cent, followed by Jeddah, Muscat and Madinah.
The Fifa World Cup-related operations will highlight DWC’s proximity to new Dubai, quick turnaround time for carriers and a facility designed for convenient travel with minimum walking distances, Mr Griffiths said.
More than 60 check-in counters, 21 boarding gates, 60 passport control counters (departures and arrivals) and 10 smart gates and four baggage belts on arrivals will be operational throughout the period to cope with the anticipated surge in demand.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will operate a dedicated bus service every 30 minutes around the clock between DWC and the Ibn Battuta Metro Station and Expo City Metro Station. RTA taxis will also be available, while travellers driving to DWC will be able to use the airport’s 2,500-vehicle capacity car park for free.
Dubai Airports has advised match-goers flying on match day shuttle flights to check the health and other requirements with their respective airlines before arriving at the airport. It is mandatory for travellers to hold a valid match ticket and the Hayya Card to board match day shuttle flights.
In addition to the match day shuttle services, FlyDubai and Qatar Airways will be operating chartered flights to cater to the passenger demand for the Fifa World Cup matches in Qatar.