In the latest Middle East crisis, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen just announced that they are cutting ties with Qatar over the accusations of supporting terrorism. They are giving Qatari diplomats 48h to leave the country and citizens two weeks. They have called on other Muslim countries to join the boycott. They have also banned Qatar Airways from their airspace and are cancelling their flights to Doha, causing significant disruption to travel in the region! This is developing, find more below and stay tuned for updates!
The situation in the Middle East is complex, with frequent tensions between different countries and religious groups. You can find an analysis of the political situation that led to the crisis at The Guardian! I will focus on the impact on travelers!
Qatar Airways is one of the big Middle Eastern carriers, serving 151 destinations around the world with a fleet of 192 planes. SkyTrax considers them a 5-Star airline and they are a OneWorld Alliance member!
Qatar is a small country, with Saudi Arabia surrounding it, so the ban from their airspace has a big impact on their flights, as they will have to fly around Egyptian and Saudi airspace on flights around the Middle East and to Africa. Flights to Europe and Asia will have to be routed through Iran or Iraq. Any other countries joining the ban could make it worse.
Flights to Doha are also impacted. Etihad has already announced the cancellation of all flights starting June 6th and other airlines, like Emirates, Saudi or Egypt Air can be expected to follow shortly. All flights on Qatar Airways to these countries are also likely to be cancelled.
If you have flights to Doha on any of the carriers from these countries or on Qatar Airways to any of these countries, I recommend that you look for alternative travel arrangements immediately. Etihad is offering refunds or flights to alternative destinations “near Doha” – neither of which might be very helpful. Even though other airlines haven’t made any announcements, they can be expected shortly and the sooner you look for alternatives, the higher your chances are on finding something!
If you are traveling on leisure and are flexible or if your flight is a few months out, you could wait for the dust to settle and see how it shapes out. A similar diplomatic crisis in 2014 (that didn’t include breaking ties and banning airlines) was eventually settled, with things returning to normal.
I will update this post as new information becomes available.
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