Turbulent ride ahead for Qatar Airways as Arab powerhouses cut ties

Qatar Airways is one of the most celebrated one of the most celebrated airlines in the world. Source: Shutterstoc

QATAR Airways – one of the world’s best airlines – could be left in the cold following a dramatic weekend in the Middle East.

The world’s biggest Arab powers including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Maldives severed diplomatic ties with Qatar.

Ties were cut over accusations Qatar was complicit in its support for Islamists and Iran. Qatar has since denied the accusation about funding Islamist militants.

The rift in the Middle East is bound to bring about major shifts in the airline industry, considering Qatar Airways’ status and presence as one of the most celebrated airlines in the world.

Reuters reported the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave while Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari planes from landing, and forbade them from crossing their airspace.

According to the report, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways, Dubai’s Emirates Airline and budget carriers Flydubai and Air Arabia said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha indefinitely from Tuesday morning.

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Qatar is also bolstering a great fall considering Saudi Arabia, along with the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are some of Qatar Airways’ biggest markets.

Based on a written report by the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), the ban on flights has a greater impact on Qatar Airways, which operates more flights than all other airlines combined. The airline has a larger presence in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE than the airlines from those countries have in Qatar.

On top of that, local traffic is impacted as well as Qatar’s global network, which “relies on Saudi and the UAE as large source markets supporting its superconnector network”.

A Business Insider report said the Doha-based airline will lose out on being banned from Saudi airspace. This will force Qatar Airways to reroute its Africa-based flights, which will prove costly for the airline.

On top of that, Bahrain – which almost completely encircles Qatar – denying Qatar’s entry into its airspace could prove “catastrophic” for the airline.

Skift predicts Qatar will be unable to fly to the United States and Europe through Middle Eastern airspace, which will prove very tricky.

Eurasia Group Middle East and North Africa director Ayham Kamel told the publication: “The airline’s profitability will take a direct hit as new routes through Iran and Turkey will include longer journeys and lower demand.”

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However, reports have called out Bahrain and UAE for not technically being allowed to ban Qatar into its airspace, in accordance with the International Air Services Transport Agreement.

Whether or not the ban will hold up, the International Air Transport Association CEO Alexandre de Juniac said, “Our industry depends on open borders so we would like the borders to be reopened to travel and trade, the sooner the better.”

At time of publication, Qatar Airways hasn’t publicly commented on the severance of ties.