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2022 World Cup Fans Put Off By High Prices and Beer Limits

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2022 World Cup Fans Put Off By High Prices and Beer Limits

Tens of thousands of 2022 World Cup fans are taking shuttle flights between Qatar and neighbouring Dubai for various reasons, including high hotel prices, a lack of available accommodations, and alcohol restrictions.

Although it may appear extreme, expensive, and environmentally questionable, daily flights have become popular for fans who prefer to sleep somewhere other than Qatar.

Outside of Doha, the region’s top destination is Dubai, the freewheeling capital of the United Arab Emirates. State airlines, such as FlyDubai, the emirate’s budget carrier, are mobilizing resources and operating ten times the usual number of flights to Doha.

Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia have also organized flights to capitalize on the 2022 World Cup tourism boom. Planes rumble overhead Doha’s old airport every few minutes.

Air shuttles are not a new concept in the Gulf, where many people who reside and work in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait travel to Dubai city for the weekend to drink alcohol and have fun in the glittering metropolis.

Unlike fans who had to fly long distances during the World Cups in South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014), and Russia (2018), the Dubai-Doha route is, in most cases, shorter.

However, because of how much fuel is used for takeoff and landing, short flights, often defined as trips shorter than 500 kilometres (311 miles), are more polluting than long flights per person for every kilometre travelled.

More than a dozen World Cup fans who chose to stay in neighbouring countries said it was due to cost.

World Cup Tent VillagesWorld Cup Tent Villages

Many people were unable to find an affordable place to stay in Doha or any place at all. As hotel prices rose in the months leading up to the tournament, budget-conscious fans scrambled for spots in Qatar’s remote fan villages, which were made of canvas tents or shipping containers.

“We planned to stay in Doha for five days.” But it was prohibitively expensive. “We didn’t want those weird fan zones,” said Ana Santos, a Brazilian fan who arrived at Doha’s airport with her husband on Thursday.

“In Dubai, we found a nice hotel for a reasonable price.” Because the flights are so full, we’re not the only ones.”

Doha’s former airport has reopened after eight years of inactivity, with thousands of shuttle flight passengers cramming through its halls. On Thursday, Qataris dressed in traditional attire distributed juicy dates and Arabic coffee to arriving fans, who cheered and took photos while draped in their national flags.

Qatar’s alcohol restrictions turned off other shuttle passengers. After a last-minute ban on beer in stadiums, the city’s few hotels are almost the only places that can serve it. The only liquor store in Doha is open to Qatari residents with an official permit.

Beer Costs at World Cup

Meanwhile, spirits abound in Dubai’s pulsing nightclubs, pubs, bars, and other tourist hotspots — and at lower prices than in Doha, where a single beer costs $14 at the official fan festival. Even in Abu Dhabi, the more conservative capital of the United Arab Emirates, tourists can purchase alcohol from liquor stores without a license.

“We want to have an experience in Dubai.” “That’s more appealing to us,” said Bernard Boatengh Duah, a doctor from western Ghana who purchased an all-inclusive Dubai hotel package that includes match-day flights and unlimited food and alcohol. “We desired more liberty.”

Many fans described the shuttles as a relatively smooth process, with the shuttles arriving at the Dubai airport less than an hour before departure, zipping through lines without luggage, and flying for about 50 minutes before landing in Doha just in time for their game.

Others, on the other hand, found it stressful and draining.

“These have been long days.” “It’s exhausting,” said Steven Carroll, a lab technician from Wales, whose flight back to Dubai was delayed an hour, leaving him exhausted at 4 a.m. in his Dubai hotel after a 24-hour day.

“The issue is that you must arrive in Qatar long before the game and allow even more time to go through the airport.”

Packed Airport and Overwhelmed Immigration

Fernando Moya, a 65-year-old Ecuador supporter from New York, expressed regret about flying in from Abu Dhabi. A technical issue with his friends’ Hayya cards, which serve as entry visas to Qatar, stranding them in the UAE capital.

Moya spent his Thursday in the Doha airport speaking with customer service and paying nearly $2,000 to fly them over on a new flight. “The logistics of this entire system are extremely complicated for people,” he explained.

On Thursday, the airport was packed with Saudi Arabian fans, whose citizens had purchased the most World Cup tickets after Qatar and the United States. The Saudi team’s shocking victory over Argentina this week heightened the anticipation.

Riyadh, an aspiring tourism destination, has sought to capitalize on the regional boost by offering two-month visas to those with Hayya cards. Nawaf Mohammed, a Saudi student, said World Cup fever is palpable in Riyadh, with more Westerners visible at the capital’s airport and carnivals.

Shuttle flights from the UAE or Saudi Arabia would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. In 2017, the Gulf Arab states and Bahrain and Egypt imposed a trade and travel boycott on energy-rich Qatar due to the emirate’s support for political Islam and ties with Iran. Qatar refused to budge, and the embargo was lifted last year.

Even so, tensions remain. Bahrain, only a 45-minute flight from Doha, is still at odds with Qatar over politics and maritime borders. Fans sleeping in the island kingdom need more easy access.

On Thursday, Eyad Mohammed, who chose to stay at a beach in Bahrain, had a layover in eastern Saudi Arabia.

“This area isn’t always convenient,” he admitted.

Source: The Associated Press

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