News broke overnight that a handful of Gulf nations would diplomatically isolate Qatar. The isolation may include blocking air space vital for Qatar Airways to smoothly operate. While news is still developing and the situation could get much worse, for now there is no need to panic.
Help! I’m Traveling on Qatar This Week!
A few Award Expert clients are traveling on Qatar this week using AA miles and one reached out to me this morning about the news. Here’s what I wrote back–
While the situation is still developing, thus far only Saudi Arabia has blocked Qatar from using its airspace. Qatar has not halted any flights other than to Saudi Arabia, though I suspect flights to Egypt, the UAE, Maldives may also be suspended.
You are traveling from Frankfurt to Bangkok and even in the worst-case scenario (other Arab nations also blocking airspace), your routing may be a bit more circuitous than normal and therefore flight time may just be a bit longer than normal. You’ll love Qatar business class so much that extra time may even be appreciated.
Should the problem be worse, there will be other avenues to get you to Bangkok. JAL and Cathay Pacific award space may open at the last-minute. There are already alternate options available immediately if you would be willing to make a second stop. Whatever happens, we will get you to Bangkok on Saturday.
Keep watching the news, as will we, and should your flight plans become adversely affected we will be in touch with alternate plans. There is no need to panic at this point.
The Worst-Case Scenario
A knowledgeable reader on Lucky’s blog outlined one scenario that might truly cripple Qatar Airways.
Doha TMA is surrounded on all sides by Bahrain and Jeddah FIRs. You cannot fly to/from Doha at all without entering those airspaces. If that OVF is denied, Qatar is entirely cut off from an aviation perspective.
- TMA = Terminal Manoeuvring Area (controlled high-volume air space)
- FIR = Flight Information Region
- OVF = Overflight
In English, that means Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could theoretically cripple all Qatar Airways airspace.
Then it became a high-stakes game of chess (or chicken): would the Saudi Air Force blow up a Qatar passenger jet that ignores civil airspace restrictions?
I’m very confident in stating the answer is no. In other words, I do not view this as a credible risk.
If you’re traveling on Qatar Airways this week, watch the news but do not panic. With the situation developing, it would be foolish to change plans at this early point. Lastly, understand that these sort of diplomatic rows are not new. Thankfully, they are often resolved quickly. Let’s hope that will be the case this time as well.