Qatar Airways says its global operations remain unaffected despite five nations withdrawing the carrier’s access to their airspace. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen took the action after severing all diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the Gulf State of supporting terrorist organisations. Qatar strongly denies the accusations.
The issue is further complicated for Qatar Airways by the complex airspace arrangements around its Doha hub. High-level airspace over Qatar is under Bahraini control, meaning all inbound and outbound traffic to Doha must fly below 25,000ft, while all movements have been restricted to a small north-south corridor which runs over the Persian Gulf linking the Qatari capital to Iranian airspace. In many instances, this means flights face a sizeable diversion, adding hours to flying times.
As part of the diplomatic spat Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have given all Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their territory as well as banning their own citizens from travelling to the Gulf State.
Qatar Airways arranged four charter flights to repatriate Qatari nationals from Saudi Arabia, three of which were operated by Oman Air via Muscat with the other flown by Kuwait Airways via Kuwait City.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways has worked tirelessly to ensure that all passengers were brought home safely to Doha within 24 hours of the flight cancellations. We have provided additional crew on the ground to ensure that all passengers are being cared for. Our global operations are continuing to run smoothly and remain unaffected. Our focus is on supporting our passengers and ensuring that we continue to deliver our award-winning service. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”
The airline has been forced to close its offices in Dubai, Sharjah and Riyadh while the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has withdrawn all licences it had granted the oneworld carrier.
Saudia, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Gulf Air have also ceased flights to Doha with immediate effect.