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Private jet demand to Doha soars despite World Cup price hikes

Private jet Vistajet
Vistajet is operating around four to five flights a day to Doha for the World Cup
  • Clamour for landing slots raises prices, say Vistajet and Blue Dot
  • Gulf airlines are operating daily shuttles from UAE during tournament
  • Regional round trip for 4 private jet passengers costs about $60,000

Private jet operators have reported a massive surge in demand for flights to Doha during the World Cup, despite the rise in operating costs caused by the high number of aircraft flying in and out of the Qatari capital.

“So far, the World Cup has been an incredibly exciting — albeit intensely busy time — for us and we have seen a significant uptick in demand to Qatar during the group stages of the tournament, particularly around the opening ceremony,” said Ian Moore, chief commercial officer at Dubai-based Vista Global Holding, an on-demand private jet provider.

“On average, we are operating around four to five flights a day for VIPs, dignitaries and football fans lucky enough to secure tickets for the final.”

Rajgopal Nair, head of air charter services at Dubai’s Blue Dot Charter Services, said demand for jets during the tournament, which started on November 20 and ends on Sunday, had been far higher than in the same period in 2021.

“We will be adding one more aircraft to our fleet to meet the demand for private charter from fans after the knockout phase. As compared to last year, we are expecting a 200 percent increase in private charter requests,” Nair said.

Ahead of the tournament, the Qatari authorities put in place restrictions to manage the expected demand for landing slots from private jets.

Operators were warned that wealthy football fans would need to be flexible with their schedules.

“The one thing we urge our customers to do is be realistic about what you can and can’t do,” Vistajet’s Moore said in September.

“Whether you stay the night or fly early morning and spend the day there, rather than getting there an hour and a half before the game and leaving an hour and a half after the game, you’ll be in the same position as everyone else.”

Private jets
Blue Dot Charter Services reports a 200 percent increase in private jet bookings

Qatar Airways announced in May that Gulf airlines would operate more than 180 daily shuttle flights during the tournament, allowing fans to fly in from nearby cities in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC.

The airlines shuttling fans to the games include Emirates, flydubai, Etihad Airways, Oman Air, Kuwait Airways, Air Arabia and Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia).

Qatar is aiming to attract around 1.2 million visitors from the tournament.

Blue Dot said the high demand for landing slots, coupled with the surge in traffic from the shuttle services, had driven up operating costs for private jet companies flying to and from Doha.

“Ground handling charges are very high. Overall, the operational cost has increased three times. As advised, since Doha is not allowing long-time parking, all aircraft have to depart within one hour after landing,” Nair said. 

Given the one-hour turnaround, private jets often have to leave Doha empty and fly back to pick up passengers, which adds to the overall operating costs. Nearby airports have benefited from the rise in spillover traffic from Doha.

“Dubai is the nearest port with all facilities fans are looking for and ample parking area for private aircrafts,” he added.

Vistajet’s Moore said backlogs and delays caused by high demand were common during tournaments, but the lack of alternative airports in Qatar exacerbates the impact.

“As with any event of this scale, there’s a high demand for slots during pretty much every World Cup that has been before, so we’re used to this,” he said.

“This was to be expected, so we prepared and have been able to successfully manage our members’ requests accordingly to reduce the risk and impact of such a situation.”

Costs vary considerably, but Nair said the average round-trip price for four passengers to Doha from a regional airport was around $60,000.

Vistajet operates a subscription model and reported that even before the start of the World Cup, demand for private jet travel was rising in the Middle East. The total number of flying hours sold to members in the first half of 2022 was up 60 percent year-on-year.

In the third quarter of this year, the number of new members rose 18 percent year-on-year.

“Demand is already high for private charter and the World Cup is the icing on the cake,” Nair added.