ABU DHABI // The availability of tickets for the capital's inaugural Formula One Grand Prix seems to be changing faster than tyres at a pit stop, with some seats that were previously unavailable coming up for sale again. Confirmation that concerts featuring Beyoncé and Aerosmith on Yas Island will be open only to race ticket-holders has increased the demand, although would-be ticket buyers have encountered various difficulties.
Customers have reported conflicting information from salesmen at the official hotline and limited availability from Etihad Airways outlets. Problems booking via the Yas Marina Circuit website have also been reported. When The National telephoned the official Yas Marina number on Monday and yesterday morning to inquire about tickets, the sales staff said they had sold out. By yesterday afternoon, however, they were saying several had become available.
"I am having the same kind of problems," said Hasan Gulistan, a banker from Abu Dhabi. "I really wish I had not left it so late. I am booking now because I also really want to see Beyoncé perform at the concert. "I have tried the website, which isn't working, and also tried calling yesterday. I am now banking on the Etihad shops having some available so I can guarantee some good seats." Sales are picking up at the Etihad outlets across the capital, according to Abdullah, an assistant in the Al Wahda Mall branch. The majority of seats had been snapped up when the tickets first went on sale, after which they had slowed to about 50 a week. In recent days, however, there had been more customers and availability was falling fast.
Seats in the most expensive Main, North and South Grandstands had all been sold out at the Etihad outlet yesterday afternoon but some were for sale in the cheaper West Grandstand and Support Pit. The West Grandstand was previously said to have been sold out soon after booking opened in March. A spokesman for Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM), which manages the circuit, said the evidently contradictory advice on availability had arisen because some companies were returning tickets from their allocations.
"It is a day-to-day situation, so people shouldn't assume that if they can't get hold of tickets in the morning, that they can't in the afternoon. Keep trying." It was possible that more tickets would become available from the middle of October, the deadline for returning tickets allocated to companies, tour operators or government bodies that were not sold on. On Monday, Richard Cregan, the chief executive of ADMM, told the media that "a number" of seats were available and that the organisation was happy to investigate any reports of problems customers might have.
He added that people who had already bought tickets should start to receive them in the coming days. "They are going out now. When everyone gets their ticket, I don't think there is any event in the world that will give you as good value as that." A formal announcement would be made to the public once the race was sold out, the ADMM spokesman added. After that, fans will have few options and the prices are likely to be higher than face value as third-party companies try to cash in.
A Norwegian online company named Euroteam, for example, has seats available in all areas, but at a much higher price. Those for the Main Grandstand, with a face value of Dh2,500, are on offer for as much as 1,000 (Dh5,350). "We have not sold as many tickets as we wanted, fewer than 50 between fewer than 10 customers," said the Euroteam chairman, Andreas Gyrre. "We are a third-party ticket supplier, and not an official distributor."
Many tickets are for sale on auction websites such as eBay and souq.com, some at inflated prices. Souq.com had seats in the South Grandstand at Dh3,500, an increase of Dh 1,500 on their face value. On eBay, some South Grandstand tickets were priced at $545 (Dh2,000), in line with their face value. "I don't know which option to take," said Mohammed Ajaib, a 55-year-old engineer from Abu Dhabi, even though tickets are still officially on sale via official channels. "It seems odd that one day tickets are available and the next they are not.
"I just don't want to pay a high price to find out more may become available at a later date. My worst nightmare is that people are buying them up in hope of selling them at a premium." Even at face value, the price of tickets coupled with booking difficulties has put some people off. Ayub Dosani, a 24-year-old F1 fan from London, said he was keen to visit the UAE but had problems with the official website. He said he would have made more of an effort had they been "more in line with international prices, like £120 (Dh700) for example."