I didn’t see this coming but overnight, the countries of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia made a diplomatic withdraw from Qatar. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives followed suit shortly after. The countries claimed that the diplomatic withdraw was due to concerns over Qatar’s alleged support of state sponsored terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have given Qataris in those countries 2 weeks to leave their territories and only 48 hours for their diplomats.
What Does This Mean for Travel Hackers
Unfortunately a LOT if you are traveling to the Middle East.
Both Emirates and Etihad have canceled all flights to Qatar’s capital, Doha. Lesser known/flown airlines in the Middle East including Air Arabia, EgyptAir, Flydubai, Gulf Air and Saudia have also canceled flights to Doha.
What makes matter more tenuous is that Qatar Airways no longer has the privilege of using the airspace of the contries that have cut diplomatic ties. This of course presents a big problem for Qatar Airways.
Take a look at the map below (courtesy of BBC). As you can see, Qatar is virtually boxed in on the west by countries that have closed their airspace.
If we zoom out a little bit, we can see that the only airspace still currently open to Qatar is over Iran.
While this doesn’t completely cut off Qatar Airways from servicing their US and Asian markets, it certainly adds a large inconvenience in additional flight time, fuel costs and the potential danger flying over the more unsettled areas of the Middle East. With the additional miles that need to be flown, there will be the associated additional costs that will likely be passed onto consumers.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Qatar Airways?
We have already seen the Electronics Ban affect all of the Middle East carriers in terms of reduced loads, which has already resulted in flight reductions from Emirates to 5 of the 12 US cities they serve. One would have to assume that this isolationism will dramatically affect Qatar’s economics.
If this airspace restriction does not change, I could easily see Qatar in financial difficulties within 6 months as many of their routes either service destinations within the travel restricted zones or use that airspace for their international flights.
What Should I Do If I’m Booked on Qatar?
Well, this depends on how you booked your flights. If you’re reading this site, you most likely booked your Qatar flight as an award flight through American Airlines. If that is the case, I would contact American to see what options you have, though I would personally do some research myself to determine the route I would prefer to take, rather than leave it in the hands of their customer service department.
If you booked a revenue flight, you should call Qatar to see if you can receive a refund or what other options they may have for you.