71 percent of HIA passengers never leave Qatar’s airport

Chris Hoare / Flickr

Chris Hoare / Flickr

Chris Hoare / Flickr

More than seven out of every 10 travelers using Qatar’s airport are just passing through and are not living in or visiting the country, according to new government figures.

The numbers, released by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics this week, underscore the importance of transfer passengers to Qatar Airways’ business.

The ministry said local passengers accounted for 883,752 of the 3,100,328 arrivals and departures at Hamad International Airport in January, a ratio relatively consistent with the previous month and January 2015.

The rest either transferred to another flight or, to a much lesser extent, arrived and departed on the same plane. For example, KLM’s flight to Amsterdam originates in Muscat but stops in Doha to pick up additional passengers before continuing to Europe.

Like Emirates and Etihad, Qatar Airways depends heavily on passengers traveling between destinations in Asia and Europe and North America via the Gulf.

Captive home market

This reliance on passengers transiting through HIA, combined with competition from UAE-based airlines, means travelers who start and end their journey outside Qatar typically pay much lower fares than residents and tourists heading to Doha.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The disparity has previously irked Qatari citizens, who called for a boycott of the national airline in 2012.

However, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker defended the practice of charging transferring passengers lower fares in 2013, saying at the time that only 18-20 percent of the airline’s customers started their journey from Doha:

“This is the rule of the game in a highly competitive market … If we increase the cost of the ticket purchased outside Qatar, we will be losing 80 percent of our customers.”

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