Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Switch in Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Airline Passengers alternative is obvious

  1. Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates compete worldwide for passengers who transfer at their transit hub Doha in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
  2. In the battle for the leading travel hub in the Middle East, the latest study, which has the most up-to-date and comprehensive booking data in the world, shows that Doha has gained and consolidated a lead over Dubai in the first half of 2021.
  3. In the period from January 1 to June 30, the volume of flight tickets issued for travel via Doha was 18% higher than via Dubai; and this relationship is to be continued. Current bookings for the second half of the year via Doha are 17% higher than via Dubai.

At the beginning of the year, air traffic via Doha was 77% from Dubai; but in the week beginning January 27th, it quickly hit 100% for the first time.

The main reason behind the trend was the January lifting of the flight blockade to and from Qatar imposed in June 2017 by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who accused Qatar of supporting terrorism – a Qatar accusation heavily disputed. Immediately after it was imposed, the blockade had a negative impact on flights to and from Doha. For example, Qatar Airways was forced to remove 18 destinations from its route network. In addition, various flights through Doha suffered from extended travel times as planes had to make detours in order not to block the airspace of the districts. The destination and its largest airline, Qatar Airways, did not respond to the blockade with cuts; Instead, it opened 24 new routes to use what would otherwise have been idle planes.

Since January 2021, five routes, Cairo, Dammam, Dubai, Jeddah and Riyadh, to / from Doha have reopened and traffic on other routes has increased. The restored routes that made the largest relative contribution to visitor arrivals are Dammam to Doha with 30% of pre-blockade arrivals in the first half of 2017 and Dubai to Doha with 21%. In addition, new connections were established with Seattle, San Francisco and Abidjan in December 2020, January 2021 and June 2021.

The main existing routes that showed the strongest growth in the total number of passengers arriving in Qatar compared to pre-pandemic levels (H1 2021 vs. H1 2019) are: Sao Paulo with an increase of 137%, Kiev with an increase of 53%, Dhaka, plus 29% and Stockholm, plus 6.7%. Seating capacity between Doha and Johannesburg also increased by 25%, Male by 21% and Lahore by 19%.

A more in-depth analysis of seating capacity shows that in the coming quarter, the third quarter of 2021, seating capacity between Doha and its Middle East neighbors will be just 5.6% below pre-pandemic levels and the majority, 51.7%, of it will be allocated to reintroduced routes to / from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The last major factor that gave Qatar an advantage over Dubai was its response to the pandemic. During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, many routes to and from Doha remained operational, making Doha a major hub for return flights – particularly to Johannesburg and Montreal.

A comparison of the market shares in the first half of 2021 with the first half of 2019 shows that Doha has significantly improved its position compared to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Hub traffic is currently divided between 33% Doha, 30% Dubai, 9% Abu Dhabi; previously it was 21% Doha, 44% Dubai, 13% Abu Dhabi.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, commented: “Without the blockade that encouraged the establishment of new routes as a strategy to replace the lost traffic, we might not have seen Doha drive past Dubai. So it appears that, ironically, the seeds for Doha’s relative success were sown by the adverse actions of its neighbors. It should be noted, however, that flights through the Middle East in the first half of 2021 were still 81% below pre-pandemic levels. If the recovery gains momentum, the picture could change significantly. “

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