Selling like hotcakes

ZURICH—World Cup ticket sales have reached 2.45 million, FIFA said, with more than 500,000 seats still available three months before the tournament starts in Qatar.

FIFA said 520,000 tickets were bought in a first-come, first-served phase of sales that closed this week. Brazil’s games against Serbia and Cameroon were among the most in-demand.

The top 10 places ranked by ticket sales to their residents include Qatar and neighboring countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The United States, England, Mexico, France, Argentina, Brazil and Germany are also on the list released by FIFA.

The cheapest tickets for fans from outside Qatar are priced at 250 riyals ($69). Fans need a confirmed ticket purchase to book places to stay in Qatar through an official tournament website.

The 64-game tournament in eight stadiums in and around Doha starts on November 20 and has a total capacity of about three million tickets.

About two million tickets were placed on general sale and 1 million were allocated for FIFA stakeholders such as member federations, sponsors and broadcasters, plus hospitality programs.

FIFA previously said it got three million ticket requests for the World Cup final on December 18—Qatar’s national day—at the new 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium.

Tickets sales are now paused with FIFA promising an update in late-September about the last round of selling that runs through the tournament.

More seats typically become available as stakeholders return some of their allocation, and during the World Cup from fans of teams that are eliminated.

DUBAI SEES TRAVEL SURGE

DUBAI International Airport saw a surge in passengers over the first half of 2022 as pandemic restrictions eased and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will further boost traffic to the city-state’s second airfield, its chief executive said Wednesday.

Paul Griffiths, who oversees the world’s busiest airport for international travel, told The Associated Press that the airport handled 160 percent more traffic over the past six months compared to the same period last year, part of an air travel rebound around the world.

The nearly 28 million people who traveled through the airport over the past six months represent some 70 percent of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels, even as Dubai’s key source market of China remains closed due to severe pandemic restrictions. Griffiths said he expects the airport’s traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.

“It’s a very, very welcome surge of traffic,” Griffiths said.

The first World Cup in the Middle East, he added, will send foreign soccer fans flocking to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, or DWC. From there, they’ll travel daily to Qatar, a tiny neighbor that faces a hotel squeeze.

“We’ve actually seen a huge amounts of demand at DWC for slot filings for airlines wanting to operate a shuttle service,” he said. “I think the city has a lot to offer and a lot to gain from the World Cup.”

Among the airlines buying extra slots to shuttle soccer fans to the tournament from DWC are Qatar Airways, low-cost carrier FlyDubai and budget airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, he said.

Ambitions plans to turn the airfield in Dubai›s southern desert into a mega-aviation hub, first unveiled by Dubai before the 2008 global financial crisis, have sputtered in recent years. Long-haul carrier Emirates, based in Dubai, parked many of its double-decker Airbus A380s there during the pandemic as commercial flights halted.

A key East-West transit point, Dubai’s air traffic is closely watched as a barometer of the city-state’s non-oil economy. Emirates remains the linchpin of the wider empire known as “Dubai Inc.,” an interlocking series of government-owned businesses.

During the first half of 2022, Dubai International Airport dealt with nearly 56 percent more flights than the same period in 2021, when contagious coronavirus variants clobbered the industry.

Now, in a sign of the health of the industry, Emirates said Wednesday that it would pour billions of dollars into retrofitting much of its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet. At the height of the pandemic, the airline received a $4 billion government bailout.

The widespread lifting of virus restrictions has triggered a rapid increase in air travel demand, filling Dubai’s hub and causing mayhem at airports around the world.

While Dubai has not seen the chaotic crowds overwhelming European hubs in recent weeks, Griffiths said the global disruptions have affected its main airport.

“It’s obviously affected growth because some of the caps on capacity that they’ve applied to airports like Heathrow have had an impact on our numbers,” he said. AP

Image credits: AP