More bad news for Qatar Airways today, as the Doha-based carrier has suspended flights to Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Yesterday the carrier suspended service to Saudi Arabia. These nations have also blocked Qatar from using its airspace.
As I predicted yesterday, Qatar Airways is not totally crippled, but with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia blocking its airspace, hundreds of Qatar flights will now travel via Iran instead. The Islamic Republic is a friendly ally of Qatar, so it appears a total-shutdown will not occur. Still, the new routing restrictions will make already-long flights even longer.
Qatar has issued the following statement—
Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt until further notice.
All customers 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.
Please check this page regularly for further flight updates.
For passengers with existing bookings, please call +974 4023 0072 or contact your nearest Qatar Airways office: https://www.qatarairways.com/en/contact-us.html
For further information and FAQs please visit: http://support.qatarairways.com/hc/en-us/sections/115002369667-FAQs
Looking at the FAQ section, I’ve pulled out the following interesting parts:
Q: Will all flights to/from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt be cancelled?
A: Qatar Airways flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been cancelled on 05 June 2017, and to the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt as of 06 June 2017, until further notice. Passengers holding a confirmed Qatar Airways ticket to any of the four countries between 05 June 2017 – 06 July 2017 are permitted to rebook their flights up to 30 days after their current confirmed departure date, one time free of charge. Passengers will also be permitted to refund the unused portion of their tickets booked for the above period once, free of charge. The service fee remains non-refundable.
Q: Other airlines have already suspended flights to Qatar; how will the passenger traffic move out of the respective countries?
A: In line with IATA regulations, airlines whose flights are disrupted (e.g. through cancelling their flights) will rebook affected passengers.
Q: Which airlines will passengers be allowed to take to travel from/to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt?
A: Passengers holding confirmed and ticketed Qatar Airways tickets will be re-accommodated according to availability on other carriers at the time of re-issuance as per the IATA Regulations.
Q: Can passengers transiting through Doha cancel their tickets?
A: Passengers holding confirmed and paid tickets for affected flights will be able to cancel their tickets as explained in Question 1. All other passengers will be able to rebook as per their existing fare conditions.
Q: When will the flights between Qatar and the affected countries be re-instated?
A: Passengers are advised to visit qatarairways.com and the Travel Alerts page for further updates.
Q: I have all my holidays booked to travel on Qatar Airways. Will you reimburse hotel charges and transportation to the airport if the flights are cancelled?
A: We will refund Qatar Airways tickets as per the conditions of carriage.
Last night when I prepared this story, the following Q&A was included but has since been removed:
Q: Can Qatar Airways fly over these countries?
A: Qatar Airways flights will not enter the airspace of these four countries.
Read into that what you will.
We still must mark this story as developing. At this point, Qatar is sounding like British Airways in terms of compensation offerings (before it saw the light), but this situation is different: an unexpected diplomatic snafu is far different from an IT meltdown. It also appears Qatar is optimistic that this is only a setback, not a permanent or even long-term problem. Still, lines like “the service fee remains non-refundable” (in FAQ above) are quite petty at this point.
For now, if you are not traveling to the Bahrain/Egypt/UAE/Saudi Arabia you’ll still be able to travel on Qatar Airways. Be prepared for flight delays as routing via Iran will lead to longer flight times, but that’s better than no flight at all.
If you are trapped in Bahrain/Egypt/UAE/Saudi Arabia, Qatar will work with you to get you rebooked on another carrier.