Gulf airlines stop flying to Qatar amid diplomatic row
With reporting from Victoria Scott
At least six Gulf-based airlines have announced that they will stop flying to and from Qatar following a diplomatic dispute.
The move will affect the travel plans of thousands of Qatar residents, as well as those passengers who have plans to travel to or through Qatar in the coming days.
Among the airlines are four UAE carriers.
Dubai-based Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, Air Arabia and the low-cost airline Fly Dubai all confirmed this morning that they will cease routes to Doha from tomorrow (June 6) until further notice.
Saudi’s Jeddah-based national flag carrier Saudia also joined, announcing in Arabic on Twitter this morning that it too is stopping flights to Qatar.
This afternoon, Bahrain’s flag carrier Gulf Air added to the group, announcing on its website that the last of its multiple daily flights from Doha to Manama would be at 8:55pm local time (Bahrain to Qatar) while the final one departing Doha would leave at 10:40pm Qatar time.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s national flag carrier Qatar Airways said it would halt flying to Saudi Arabia at least for today.
These announcements come as the Saudi Arabian Civil Aviation Authority ordered a ban on all Qatar aircraft landing at airports in the Kingdom with immediate effect, state news agency SPA reported.
Posting on its website today, Emirates said:
“As instructed by the UAE government, Emirates will suspend its flights to and from Doha, starting from the morning of 6 June 2017, until further notice.
The last flight from Dubai to Doha will depart as EK847 at 02:30am on 6 June. The last flight from Doha to Dubai will depart as EK848 at 03:50am on 6 June.”
Customers booked on Emirates’ flights to and from Doha will be provided with alternative options.
These include full refunds on unused tickets and free re-booking to the nearest alternate Emirates destinations, it added.
It advised all passengers bound for Doha to make alternative arrangements.
Etihad Airways made a similar announcement on its website, confirming that the last flights from Abu Dhabi to Doha will be flight EY391 which will depart at 9:35pm UAE time.
Flight EY398 will be the last Abu Dhabi-bound one, leaving Qatar just before 11pm tonight.
And budget carrier Fly Dubai also confirmed today it would suspend its operations to Doha from tomorrow.
On its Facebook page, it said the last flight out of Doha, heading to Dubai, would be leave Hamad International Airport at 10:40pm.
“Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until 23:59 UTC on 05th June (02:59 Doha Time on 6th June). Please check this page regularly for further flight updates.”
For its part, Air Arabia said it would cease flights from Sharjah to Doha starting tomorrow, Reuters reported.
The airline’s last flight from Sharjah to Doha will depart at 6:30pm local time today, while the last inbound flight from Doha to Sharjah will depart at 7:25pm local time, the newswire said.
Qatar Airways silent
Meanwhile, aside from a short statement on its website about halting flights to Saudi Arabia, Qatar Airways has not commented on how its other routes will be affected.
But Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have both said they will close their airspace to flights from Qatar.
This will significantly impact Qatar Airways, which will be forced to route its flights around the closures.
Bahraini airspace is large, running almost up to Kuwait to the north, the UAE to the east and Saudi to the south and west.
When the UAE also closes its airspace to Qatari flights, the airline will have to route most flights from Doha via Iran. This will lead to significant detours for many flights.
Have your travel plans been affected by this Gulf row? Thoughts?