GCC isolates Qatar; many flights affected


Diplomatic relations among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations deteriorated quickly over the past 24 hours and the impact on transportation is expected to be severe. Multiple nations are isolating Qatar, focused mostly on statements attributed two weeks ago to an Emir. Those statements, in support of Iran and Hamas, were eventually denied by the government as false, claiming the national news agency’s website was hacked. But the impact is carrying over to the present day; transportation links are set to be shuttered at the end of the day local time and the impact will be massive.

Thus far at least seven airlines are expected to halt all flights to Doha:

  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • EgyptAir
  • Fly Dubai
  • Air Arabia
  • Saudia
  • Gulf Air

It is also expected that landing rights for Qatar-registered aircraft will be revoked in these countries, putting a damper on routes that represent nearly 20% of Qatar Airways capacity.

Beyond those cuts, however, is the impact of overfly rights. Saudi Arabia will close its airspace as of 0001Z (i.e. midnight UTC) on 6 June 2017. As of that time no Qatar-flagged aircraft will be permitted to fly over the country. This will affect flights to a number of destinations that currently transit that airspace. For airlines from other countries a special application for over-flight rights must be completed if they wish to transit Saudi airspace to or from Qatar according to CNN.

The situation is spectacularly fluid at this point and presumably efforts are underway to halt the collapse of these diplomatic relations and the associated economic fallout. but, for now, expectations of success on that front appear rather low.

Perhaps most notable for the “travel hacking” community is the large number of very inexpensive business class fares Qatar Airways has been offering from Cairo to the United States and elsewhere. With no flights expected to operate between Cairo and Doha that could create a spectacular mess for many travelers.

Separate from all the flight issues, diplomats are being recalled within 48 hours and foreign nationals are being required to leave within 14 days, a task made far more difficult with no transport options on offer. Expect the situation to get messier before it gets better.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

7 Comments

  1. Saudi Arabia accusing another Arab state of supporting Jihad is interesting since they too have complex interests in non-state actor extracurricular activities. Fake news and rush to judgement, sounds like a Trump negotiation tactic masquerading as diplomacy.

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