Aviation

Qatar Airways responds to travel ban

Hannah Edensor

In the days following the shock split between Qatar and the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, Qatar Airways has remained fairly quiet despite the concerns over how the new ban will affect travellers.

But in a statement to Travel Market Report, it has broken its silence over how the diplomatic conflict will impact its airline services.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have all cut ties with the country, banning travel between the nations, and significantly, banning Qatar Airways flights from entering the airspace of these nations, claiming Qatar is supporting terrorists and poses a security risk.

Qatar Airways posted on its website on Monday that it had “suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt until further notice”. It has since announced on its website that its offices in Dubai, Sharjah and Riyadh have been “closed in accordance with local authority directions”.

Qatar Airways told Travel Weekly in a statement, “Qatar Airways operations are running as normal with no disruptions to flights with the exception of those to the four countries Qatar Airways has been restricted to fly to.

“At Qatar Airways, our passengers remain our utmost priority and we will continue to ensure they have a seamless journey to their final destinations.”

Per TMR, in order to keep the rest of its service running smoothly, Qatar Airways is re-routing some longer flights through Turkish and Iranian airspace, according to a source close to the situation.

“Service to and from the US will continue to operate as normal,” the source said.

The ban effectively means that Qatar Airways will no longer be able to fly to Europe and the US through Saudi and Egyptian airspace, and as a result could see passengers subject to longer trip times, inefficient routings that avoid banned airspace, which means added fuel costs, and then compromised ticket sales.

Per The Washington Post, before Qatar’s neighbors’ shut them out, Qatar Airways flights would regularly pass through Saudi and Emirati airspace. In fact, a full 18 per cent of the airline’s flights were to the four countries leading the blockade.

Bahrain’s airspace practically encircles Qatar, initially threatening the entire Qatar airline. If it wasn’t for Bahrain – who has allowed Qatar Airways access to two routes – one for incoming and one for outgoing- the airline would literally be grounded, as you can see in this map from Washington Post:

Speaking at the IATA annual conference in Cancun, Qantas’ International Chief Executive Gareth Evans told The Australian the airline was examining the fallout between its partner airlines and Qatar.

The ban could mean Qataris could be prevented from flying on Qantas flights, as Qatari nationals won’t even be allowed to transit and change planes in any of the banned countries.

Qataris who can’t travel through the Middle East would be offered alternative travel or ­refunds, a Qantas exec told The Oz.

“Obviously we’ve got a relationship with Qatar with OneWorld but we don’t codeshare with Qatar,” Evans said.

“So the impact on our operation and network is very, very minimal.”

Qantas codeshares with Emirates, with the two airlines flying 13 times a day from Australia to Dubai, and provide ‘one-stop’ access to destinations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

“The main issue, and this is developing as we speak, is the UAE has banned Qatari nationals from transiting through the UAE,” Evans added.

“We are looking to see it that affects any passengers. If it does, it will be a very small number anyway and we will offer them alternatives and refunds.”

Qatar Airways has made a big play into Australia recently, with its Sydney route launching just over a year ago, its direct Adelaide to Doha route in May 2016, and a spate of other Aussie routes on the agenda.

Meanwhile, its brand new “revolutionary” QSuite Business Class, which features the industry’s first-ever double bed available in Business Class, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room.

 


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