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Qatar Airways CEO says ‘business as usual’ as GCC rift widens

Qatar Airways CEO says ‘business as usual’ as GCC rift widens

The airline is organising chartered flights to Doha from Jeddah via Muscat and Kuwait

Qatar Airways has transported “hundreds” of passengers from Saudi Arabia to Doha via Oman, it announced on Wednesday.

The airline has suspended operations to and from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt after the countries severed all ties with Qatar on Monday.

The countries have cut all air and land links with Qatar and all Qatari citizens have been ordered to leave Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain within 14 days.

All the airlines from the UAE, Saudi and Bahrain have also suspended flights to Doha since Tuesday.

Also read: Expats residing in Qatar will not be eligible for visa on arrival in UAE

On Tuesday, Qatar Airways organised three flights – chartered on Oman Air, from the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to Doha via Muscat.

The airline has also organised an additional flight with Kuwait Airlines on Wednesday to Doha via Kuwait. The flight departs at 7.15pm local time.

Qatar Airways group CEO Akbar Al Baker said that Qatar Airways ensured 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,” he said.

He added: “As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”

His statement came even as the UAE announced on Wednesday that it had ordered Qatar Airways to shut down its offices across the country.

The airline was already ordered to shut its offices in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, after the two countries also revoked its licence on Tuesday.

Qatar Airways said it is supporting its staff affected by the situation in Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

“All passengers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination,” the statement added.

Experts have opined that Qatar Airways will feel the biggest impact of the ban.

The shutting down of Qatar Airways’ offices in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE “definitely signals that this spat is going to last a long time”, opined Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

“You don’t shut down offices and revoke licences if you expect some sort of near term resolution. By this move, it’s clear that the coordinated efforts by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain implies that they are more than prepared to isolate Qatar for the long term – and this will be very crippling to Qatar Airways in terms of fleet operations,” he said.

“Not only will jets have to fly longer and further, costing more time and fuel, but its regional fleet of A320s will end up being parked – another cost. They can’t redeploy these on longer missions as they do not have capacity or range,” he added.

Read more: GCC rift: What kind of an impact are regional airlines facing?

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