Bottom Line: World Cup kicks off problems for air traffic

Elizabeth Fournier
WHEN the England football team jetted off to Miami at the weekend for a couple of pre-World Cup friendlies, they did so from Luton. They took a private plane of course – tourists can only get as far as Egypt or the Canaries from the north of London airport – but their departure will kick off a flurry of flights over the next couple of months, as football fans from across the globe jet into Brazil to support their national teams.

Airlines have already added hundreds of international routes to their roster to fill demand, as well as 2,000 new domestic flights to ferry supporters between the stadiums.

In theory, it should be great for carriers to and from the country. But as with much of the infrastructure surrounding the tournament, major upgrades have been needed at airports in all 12 of the host cities, with local operators warning at Iata’s conference just yesterday that stretched air traffic control towers could lead to huge tailbacks in the sky. Even without extra demand Brazil cancels twice the number of flights as the US every day – all of which could leave airlines facing hefty fines for delays and huge bills for accommodating stranded passengers. It’s unwelcome news for an industry that’s already being squeezed this year as taxes and red tape stymie profits.

But there’s more bad news. A study of England games by Professor Stephen Hawking found the team performs best when they take short haul flights and play at 3pm.

With a 4,400 mile trip to Miami followed by another 2,500 miles to Manaus, and an 11pm GMT kick off for the first game against Italy, it’s not only airlines who are facing a dicey World Cup.

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