Private jet companies in Dubai are doing a roaring trade from hopeful England football fans confident their team will make it all the way to the World Cup final in Doha on December 18.
Luxury charters have been in demand from supporters in Dubai looking to fly in and out during the month-long tournament that kicks off on November 20.
ME Jets, a company operating from Dubai World Central, is providing a luxury experience for families, groups and individuals hoping to travel to Qatar in style.
At €1,750 (Dh6,500), the experience is not cheap, but that has not dissuaded fans gripped by World Cup fever from snapping up seats, despite the availability of commercial flights for about a third of the price.
It is supporters of the England team who appear most confident of making it all the way to the final, with bookings for the 64-seat passenger VIP aircraft on December 18 mostly taken up by fans of the Three Lions.
“We have sold out the whole flight for the final, which is great, and three quarters for the flight for the semi-final,” said Amy Spicer, managing partner at ME Jets.
“Most of these bookings have come from English fans, which I was fairly surprised about in case England don’t get to the final.
“We feel the price would suit the mid-range of individuals unable to afford or wanting to pay for an exclusive private jet, but who are willing to pay slightly more for the nicer experience.
“By going from the private terminal, it will be much quicker, too.
“It seems that a lot of people would like to go to the World Cup final for the experience, regardless of if their country gets through or not.”
ME Jets has secured a Boeing 737, a 64-business-class-seat private aircraft, a 16-seater Global 6000 jet and an eight-seat Hawker 750 for same-day return flights during the World Cup.
Daily flights will depart from the private Jetex FBO terminal at DWC.
Passengers can check in at a private terminal at the Dubai South airport and have access to a separate departure lounge
So far, most of the bookings have come in groups of 15 or more.
Ms Spicer said England’s match against the US was proving the most popular group game, with half the flights sold already.
Thomas Mold, a financial trader in Dubai, will be flying to Doha to watch England play the US with his father David and friend Luke Wilson.
“We all went together to the Russia World Cup, which was a great experience,” said Mr Mold, originally from Essex, who has lived in the UAE for eight years.
“Because of the hotel situation, either not being enough rooms or too expensive, it made sense to hop on a plane and come back.
“There is a big group of us. Of the 63 people or so, I know at least 20 people on there.
“The best thing is no waiting around at the airport, it is much more convenient, as it is so close. It’s great to have a World Cup on our doorstep.”
The ME Jets flight will leave four hours before every kick-off and return three hours after the end of each match. Passengers need to arrive at the departure terminal half an hour before the flight is due to leave.
Mr Mold applied for tickets via the Fifa ballot and will join other England fans on board the private charter for match against the US at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, November 25.
Although he doesn’t yet have tickets for other matches, he is hoping to join fans for the latter stages of the tournament.
His dad, meanwhile, has tickets for all three England group matches and will travel by private jet for each.
“I’ll be based in Dubai with my son for as long as England are in the tournament and will aim to fly in for each of the games,” said David Mold, a West Ham United fan.
“I’ve been to every tournament with England since 1990 in Italy, so I couldn’t miss Qatar.
“I’ve committed to a private jet for each of the group games and the last 16 knockouts. It will be expensive but worth it, I’m sure.”
High demand for flights
With commercial flights to Doha already being booked up despite a top-up in schedules to cope with demand, those who can afford it are looking at an even more private travel option.
Travel data from industry specialists Sojern showed flight bookings to Qatar during the tournament from across the Middle East have increased by more than 4,000 per cent since the start of 2022.
Demand is also high in Europe, where a spike of 400 per cent since January has been recorded, with similar numbers from Asia, Australasia and the Americas.
Jetex, another private jet operator out of Dubai World Central, has also seen surging demand for World Cup charters.
“Passengers clearly want the convenience of flying into Qatar, attending matches and then returning to Dubai afterwards,” said Oleg Kafarov, director of corporate communications at Jetex.
It will cost Dh240,000 to charter a private Jetex aircraft from Dubai to Doha for up to 10 passengers.
This includes the use of all facilities, including a private lounge at the Jetex VIP terminal.
Private aircraft available include Falcon, Bombardier and Lear jets, depending on the configuration and seats required.
“Passengers can choose what time they want to fly and return — usually they would need to be at the terminal at least 15 minutes before departure, so it is pretty flexible,” said Mr Kafarov.
“We don’t expect passengers to have much baggage, so we expect it to be very easy.
“Demand is likely to increase for the semi-final and final, and we want to ensure we can manage the expectation of passengers, as there is a lot of interest.”