Flying to Europe via Doha is cheaper than Flying to Doha!

India to Doha route is in high demand and has very little capacity. Between Chennai and Doha, only Indigo and Qatar offer direct flight (or even one stop for that matter). Due to high demand and limited supply, even Indigo is able to command a high return fare of 26000-30000 INR for the 4 hour flight. (whereas flight to neighboring Dubai, Abu Dabhi etc can be had for around 15000-18000 INR)
So with high demand and limited seats, airlines are going for the kill. While Indigo is charging 26-30k INR without food, full service airline Qatar is charging 45000 INR+ for a ticket from Chennai to Doha and back. Qatar being full service airline, their pricing includes meals, entertainment, comfort kit (blankets etc), miles and a possible upgrade opportunity, however remote it may be. Most business travelers would also prefer only Qatar over Indigo, so Qatar Airways wouldn't have problem filling their A330s or B777s on India-Doha route despite the higher than usual fares.

A diplomatic fight with UAE means you can't fly to Doha via Dubai or Abu Dhabi either using other Gulf Carriers, further limiting options.

But then, the irony of this demand-supply game is that now it is lot cheaper to fly to some other destination via Doha, than fly to Doha itself. For example, yon can fly to Paris via Doha for 10% cheaper than what it costs to fly to Doha. Refer screenshot below or check for yourself on airline website for any random date.
Doha-Paris is 2x the distance and time compared to Chennai-Doha. If flying distance/fuel were the basis of pricing, Doha Paris should have been 2x Chennai-Doha. But airline pricing doesn't necessarily follow such logic. It is all driven by optimization- how best they can make maximum money. This is because passengers flying to Paris have dozens of options- they can fly with Etihad, Emirates, Air France/KLM flights, Air India and various other airlines. So Qatar Airways needs to keep Paris price competitive to win Indian customers.

As per this Mint news, Qatar has asked Indian Government for permission to operate more flights between India and Doha. Qatar was also keen to invest in Indian airlines or start an India subsidiary- but these things take years to materialize.

What does this mean to you?
Option 1: Avoid flying to Doha for the time being
Holiday to Qatar can wait a bit till situation improves. For 30000-45000 INR, you can visit Europe, Africa and lots of places around the world. (even USA for 50k if you are lucky)

Option 2: Sky skipleg- You can book a ticket to Paris and get off at Doha- but return journey could still be expensive. Plus you can't do this if you have checked bag. Most airlines treat this method as illegal and may penalize passengers for it. (Lufthansa dragged a passenger to court).

Skipleg is also tricky because of Visa requirement- you will need Schengen visa to be issued boarding pass at origin, you will need Qatar visa to enter Qatar (or be eligible for Visa on Arrival- say due to US visa)- all these efforts may not be worth unless you already have all visas and are very desperate to save a few thousand rupees. It is better to play by the books than trying to scam the system and risk getting caught.

Option 3: Take longer route- Mumbai-Doha is a bit cheaper as there're more flights, compared to other cities that have limited flights to Doha. This would mean longer travel n more inconvenience,but may save you 5 to 10 k if you've to travel anyway to Doha in your own money.

Hopefully if Spicejet or AirAsia India or Vistara also begin some flights to Doha situation may improve. Let us know your thoughts on this.

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