Qatar Airways to restructure flight schedules during Fifa World Cup

Airline asking partners in which it holds minority stakes to operate some flights on its behalf

A Qatar Airways jet taxis to the gate at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Bloomberg
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Qatar Airways will restructure its flight schedule temporarily to handle a surge in passenger traffic expected during the Fifa World Cup in Doha later this year.

The airline will restructure flight arrival and departure schedules to deal with the “huge rush” of travellers it anticipates during the football tournament, group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said in Doha on Tuesday.

“We have to withdraw from many destinations in order to relieve capacity and make room for others [airlines] also to come to Doha and utilise the slots, which otherwise would be nearly impossible to sustain, and this would happen during just the 30-day period,” he said during a closing press conference at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The airline will also call on partners in which it holds minority stakes to operate some flights on its behalf, he said. Qatar Airways is the largest single shareholder in British Airways owner IAG and has also acquired shares in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines and Chile-based Latam Airlines.

Earlier, Qatar Airways announced that it had entered into partnerships with fellow GCC airlines to launch daily services for Fifa World Cup ticket holders.

The sporting event will take place from November 21 to December 18.

Qatar Airways, which has grounded much of its Airbus A350 jets amid a bitter dispute with the plane maker, is backfilling its capacity requirement from the jet-leasing market, Mr Al Baker said.

“Never a manufacturer must be allowed to use their market dominance to bully their long-standing customer,” he said.

Qatar Airways and Airbus are locked in a court battle over flaking paint on its A350 wide-body jets. The plane maker hit back by revoking a deal for smaller A321 Neo planes.

Willie Walsh, Iata's director general, told the press briefing that Airbus's cancellation of this order was a “worrying development” for the wider industry.

After the Airbus-Qatar Airways dispute, some airlines may opt to cancel their contracts when plane makers are late in delivering aircraft, he said.

“It may represent an opportunity for some airline CEOs who have commitments to aircraft that they may not wish to take and now we will be looking at a potential default on the part of the manufacturer and that enables them to cancel the contract,” he said.

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Updated: June 22, 2022, 11:50 AM
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