As the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches, Israel has reached an agreement with Qatar that will see the first-ever direct flights between Tel Aviv and Qatar. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations, but Qatar has said that Israelis would be able to enter the country for the duration of the tournament.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that charter flights between the two countries would need to make a stop at Larnaca International Airport (LCA) in Cyprus. However, the Qatari Government has since permitted direct charter flights between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Qatar. This permission will run throughout the tournament.
The flights will be operated by a foreign airline with existing landing rights in Qatar. According to FIFA, these flights are “subject to Israel’s security requirements and operational capabilities.” Further details are yet to be announced.
FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, said
“We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the FIFA World Cup. With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together. Football has the power to bring people together, it transcends all boundaries, crosses all borders, and fosters unity like nothing else. The World Cup is the ultimate symbol of football’s unifying power, and today’s historic announcement provides a platform to improve relations across the Middle East.”
Entry requirements to Qatar
Tens of thousands of Israeli citizens are expected to visit Qatar for the World Cup. As well as having a valid flight ticket to and from Qatar, all travelers must hold a valid Hayya card. The Hayya card is a fan ID card that is required to enter the country and the World Cup stadiums. It also grants holders free travel on metro and bus transportation on match days.
The Palestinian Embassy in Doha will provide consular services throughout the tournament. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs will do the same, but through a privately-operated travel company based in Qatar.
Photo: Qatar Airways
A FIFA spokesperson celebrated the announcement, saying,
“The announcement today illustrates our commitment to respecting FIFA’s policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches. This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and media are able to travel on these chartered flights with no restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made extra special by it being the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab and Muslim world.”
Alternative flight options from Israel to Qatar
In addition to the direct charter flights, passengers traveling between Tel Aviv and Doha have a multitude of one-stop options available to them, including Emirates via Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul Airport (IST).
Emirates operates daily flights to Tel Aviv with its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Turkish Airlines flies up to eight times per day from its hub at Istanbul Airport, and twice per day from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) with its subsidiary AnadoluJet. The airline uses a variety of aircraft on the route, including the Airbus A321 and the Boeing 777-300ER.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is taking place from November 20th through December 18th. The eyes of the world are on Qatar as the nation puts together the final preparations for the tournament, which has so far been dogged by controversy. It remains to be seen whether the agreement to allow the first direct flights between Israel and Qatar will help to thaw relations between the two countries going forward.
What do you think of Qatar’s decision to permit direct charter flights from Israel? If you are flying to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which route will you be taking to get there? Share your thoughts and plans by commenting below.