Mon. Jan 30th, 2023
FIFA World Cup 2022 and Air Travel

After a dramatic final match for Argentina against France, Qatar brought the curtain down on FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 last Sunday, highlighting the country’s influence on soccer worldwide and ending a tournament in which it proved doubters wrong about its ability to host such a significant tournament.

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the World Cup
Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the World Cup
Source: REUTERS/Carl Recine

In the tournament that took place in November and December, and throughout the 64 matches played in Doha, over 3.4 million fans were in attendance in Doha; therefore, air travel had a significant role in bringing together the entire world in Qatar for the most significant athletic event in history. Although the World Cup started in an era before widespread air travel, it has grown significantly and now depends on aviation for its success. Let’s look at some numbers of the air travel industry through the World Cup.

Qatar Airways; the official airline partner for FIFA.

FIFA World Cup 2022 and Air Travel
Source: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has had a hectic month; over 3.4 million fans attended the 64 matches played in Doha. Qatar Airways operated almost 14,000 flights throughout the tournament arriving at either Hamad International Airport (DOH) or Doha International Airport (DIA). Bookings to Qatar increased by 77% (compared to October) and more than 87% (compared to November 2019).

FIFA World Cup 2022 and Air Travel
Source: IATA

Travelers by region stats.

Most Qatar visitors came from the Middle East in November, which was not particularly surprising. In contrast to other regions, it only amounted to a 56% rise in reservations in November 2022 compared to the same month in 2019. Europe was the second-place runner in November, with ticket sales jumping 146% from the same period in 2019. Though reservations from this region were the fewest overall, the 1074% increase in reservations from Central and South America was equally astounding.

FIFA World Cup 2022 and Air Travel
Source: IATA

“Match Day Shuttle” flights

The shuttle flights were meant to relieve Qatar of some of the burden of hosting the first World Cup in the Middle East and give neighboring Gulf countries access to the tournament. The agreement that took place five months prior to the launch of the tournament included the following airlines:

  • flydubai (UAE)
  • Oman Air (Oman)
  • Kuwait Airways (Kuwait)
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia)
Air Travel
Day of “Match Day Shuttle” agreement
Source: Times of Oman

Shuttle flights’ stats.

Bookings between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman, and Qatar and Saudi Arabia increased in the Middle East. International travelers stayed in these countries and then shuttled to Qatar for specific matches. Passengers booking a return flight from Saudi Arabia to Qatar with only 0-1 night of stay increased from 5% in October to 16% in November. The UAE’s share increased from 14% to 51%, while Oman’s share increased from 5% to 44%.

Looking more closely

Bookings to Qatar almost doubled once Argentina qualified to play France in the championship game. Most tickets for flights before the final was bought two days beforehand, demonstrating that Argentinian supporters responded promptly to fly to Qatar to attend the final match as well as charter flights, which were significantly used by Argentine fans that increased overall visiting numbers.

General view of the presentation ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Also, almost the same boost occurred in the week following Morrocco’s national team’s elimination of Spain in the round of 16; ticket sales from Morocco, a surprise semifinalist to some, climbed significantly. Spontaneous bookings from Morocco to Qatar for the day of the match versus Portugal rose in particular too.

A spectacular edition!

While both the competing teams and football fans have had a thrilling and historic World Cup, the same could be said about Qatar Airways. As highlighted by the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker:

“What started as a dream has finally turned into reality. The State of Qatar succeeded in bringing the world together in a celebration of football and unity. Now, history will remember this FIFA World Cup – the first in the Middle East and the best edition ever. We are grateful to have been a part of this long and rewarding experience as the Official Airline of the Journey. For every step and every mile traveled with us, we have aimed to deliver a flying experience like no other.”

CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker

2026 World Cup

The 2026 World Cup will be held in 3 countries. For the first time, the tournament will feature 48 teams and be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the USA. It will take place in 16 cities, including 11 in the USA, 3 in Mexico, and 2 in Canada. Given the distances involved, aviation will be crucial to the tournament’s success and further highlight the connection between air travel and the World Cup.

Read also: The world of football and aviation


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