Qatar travel hit as neighbours suspend transport links

Disruption is likely at Doha's Hamad International Airport
Disruption is likely at Doha’s Hamad International Airport

Several Middle Eastern airlines have suspended their flights to Doha following a diplomatic spat with the Qatari government.

Airlines based in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – including Emirates and Etihad – have stopped flying to their Gulf neighbour, and their countries’ airspace has been closed to Qatar Airways. Egypt and Yemen have also joined the embargo.

In addition, the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has been closed and all shipping links to the affected countries suspended, effectively isolating the peninsula state.

Qatar Airways issued a statement confirming that it 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,” it added.

Passengers booked on Qatar Airways flights can expect longer journey times than usual, as pilots have to navigate their way around the closed airspace. Images from the FlightRadar24 website on Tuesday showed large numbers of inbound and outbound Qatari aircraft on a limited path, flying over the east coast of the Arabian Gulf and western Iran.

Passengers are also being warned of possible disruption and delays at Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

This unprecedented action stems from a diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighbours, who have accused it of destabilising the region by supporting terrorist groups. Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, told Al Jazeera that his government wants to “solve any dispute through dialogue”.

Qatar is due to host the World Cup in 2022, and football’s world governing body FIFA said it remains in “regular contact with Qatar”.

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