Today marks one week since the Euro 2020 final. Before the match between England and Italy went to penalties, a stadium banner showed an advertisement from Qatar Airways, stating, “See you in 2022”. This message, of course, relates to Qatar’s hosting of next year’s FIFA World Cup. Leading up to the big event, Qatar Airways’ SVP of Revenue Management, Alliances and Strategy, Mark Drusch, spoke exclusively with Simple Flying about how his airline is preparing.
Strong returns expected
There is a lot at stake when it comes to hosting the World Cup. Qatar has spent billions in preparation, but the returns can be massively rewarding. For instance, World Cup 2018 injected over $14 billion into the Russian economy amid Russia’s hosting of the tournament.
It’s not only short-term benefits to be had. Sporting events have the ability to put cities on the world stage and do wonders in the long term. With this in mind, there have been significant investments in expanding Hamad International Airport (HIA) in time for the World Cup. This move will not only enable smother travel for visitors during the tournament, but it will enhance Qatar’s position as a global transit hub within the country’s strategic location in the long run.
The bigger picture
Drusch explains how past sporting events have revolutionized social and economic activity in cities. He uses his own experience as an example of how Qatar’s capital of Doha can be transformed with the tournament.
“We are planning the expansion of HIA, which will be complete in time for the FIFA World Cup. So, more capacity at HIA, not only for the World Cup. but for the post World Cup demand. I was at Delta for the 96 Olympics. And I gotta tell you, that was the single biggest accelerator for international demand and leisure demand in and out of Atlanta. Putting Atlanta on the global stage for the Olympics really accelerated the international growth of that city,” Drusch tells Simple Flying.
“I would expect we should see something very similar from the World Cup being hosted here in Doha. It puts Doha on the world stage. I am sure everybody has heard of Doha, just like everybody had heard of Atlanta, but it’s a lot different when everybody is watching it. It really raises the global awareness of the city. Therefore, I’m convinced it will continue to fuel the growth of Qatar.”
Thus, Qatari officials are covering all angles to ensure that visitors have a seamless journey. For instance, Doha International Airport is coming out of retirement. The airport was mothballed after HIA’s opening in 2014, but it will now have a major role in the World Cup. While HIA will handle the majority of passengers, the old airport will be deployed to cater to private jets and the like.
Even as cases were rising across numerous countries in Europe, there was still some demand for air travel for Euro 2020 despite ongoing restrictions. The loyalty of football fans won’t stop them from flying, even if it is a challenge. Stadiums were at lower capacity than expected, but with the World Cup 17 months away, capacity is expected to normalize as conditions with dealing with the virus continue to improve. Nonetheless, if the Euros are something to go by, Drusch highlights that there will still be strong demand even if global reopening takes its time.
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Demand is building
The first matches of Qatar 2022 will be during next November. So, Qatar Airways is not within the booking window for inventory in its revenue management system. However, outside of this system, the airline has developed a platform that allows it to collect the demand data and start a reserving demand for those who are looking for seats already.
There is plenty of activity already building up. With the World Cup being such a gargantuan affair, people from countries across every continent are looking at flying in.
“We’re already starting to see a lot of requests for seats from around the world. As you would expect, it’s the usual suspects, Europe, South America, US, China, all already coming and looking for seats to fly here during the World Cup,” Drusch adds.
“We’re starting to work with everybody to help them secure the seats that they’ll need and make sure we understand exactly how much demand we’re going to have. Therefore, we’re going to need to add capacity beyond what we expected.”
Outside of the booking window, rather than guess, Qatar Airways will allow the market to help the company shape where it will need extra capacity. Moreover, the company is communicating closely with airline partners to ensure that all parties can support each other with the added capacity across the globe.
Overall, the airline is taking the right steps to ensure that it can meet demand ahead of the World Cup. It is analyzing data, looking at previous tournaments, and working with its partners well in advance.
Are you looking to head to Qatar for FIFA World Cup 2022? What do you make of the work that Qatar Airways is doing to prepare for the big tournament next year? Let us know what you think of the operations in the comment section.