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Doha’s HIA set to become the Middle East’s busiest airport

The volume of air tickets issued for travel via Doha was 18% higher than it was through Dubai in the first half of 2021

New research by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys shows that air traffic through Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) has overtaken Dubai International in the first half of this year.

ForwardKeys said that Doha had “seized and consolidated a lead over Dubai airport”, with the volume of air tickets issued for travel via Doha 18% higher than it was through Dubai, for the period between 1 January and 30 June, 2021.

The firm said that the trend looks set to continue, with current bookings for the second half of the year through Doha being 17% higher than through Dubai.

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According to ForwardKeys, several factors can be attributed to the surge in bookings. These include the lifting of a three-and-a-half-year blockade on Qatar by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the fact that many routes in and out of Doha remained operational during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. As a result, Doha became a major hub for repatriation flights with high numbers of flights to Johannesburg and Montreal in particular.

In terms of market share, HIA has substantially improved its position when compared with Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s main airports. During the first half of 2021, 33% of hub traffic was attributed to Doha, 30% to Dubai and 9% to Abu Dhabi, compared with the first half of 2019, when Doha had 21%, Dubai 44% and Abu Dhabi 13%.

Olivier Ponti, vice-president insights at ForwardKeys, said: “Without the blockade, which encouraged the establishment of new routes as a strategy to replace lost traffic, perhaps we would not have seen Doha charging past Dubai. 

“However, one needs to bear in mind that flights through the Middle East during H1 2021 were still 81% below pre-pandemic levels. So, as the recovery gathers pace, the picture could change significantly.”

In April, Airports Council International published preliminary figures for the world’s busiest airports in 2020, showing the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dubai continued to welcome the most international passengers of any airport worldwide, although those figures were down by 70%, and the airport dropped out of the top-10 list of the world’s busiest airports, with seven of the positions taken by airports in China.

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