Qatar Airways faces tough headwinds due to new restrictions

A man stands outside the Qatar Airways branch in Riyadh on June 5, after the carrier suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major Gulf states and Doha. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2017

Qatar Airways faces tough headwinds due to new restrictions

DUBAI: Qatar Airways, the second-biggest carrier in the Arabian Gulf, will face tough operational and financial headwinds as a result of restrictions placed on it by several other Arab nations, and the pressure will grow the longer the diplomatic fracture goes on, aviation analysts said.
All flights between four countries — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — and Qatar are cancelled for an indefinite period from June 6, and Qatar Airways flights will not be allowed to fly over the airspace of those four nations.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research consultancy in London, said: “Qatar Airways will be hit hardest since it will have to reroute flights (that previously flew) over Saudi Arabia and the UAE on its long-haul missions — adding fuel, time and costs. Equally, its narrow-body fleet will end up parked at Doha, and ramp space there is not exactly plentiful — so again, they will have to redeploy them somewhere, if at all possible.”
Citibank, the American financial giant, said: “Loss of routes and the requirement to detour neighbors’ airspace could have a significant long-term impact on Qatar Airways business.”
That was echoed by John Strickland, independent aviation expert at JLS Consulting. “Much depends on how long (the dispute) goes on. We have not heard the final story yet. But the longer it goes the worse it is for Qatar,” Strickland told Arab News.
“The ban on ‘in’ and ‘out’ flights will obviously have an immediate impact, but the restrictions also inhibit operational flexibility on overflights through the other countries. Qatar files to Europe, Africa and the Americas, and all are affected by the ban on airspace in the region.”
Qatar seemed on Monday to have already begun avoiding the airspace of the countries that imposed the ban. Social media websites showed air maps of Qatar Airways planes en route to the west flying over the Arabian Gulf, heading towards Iran and Iraq, before turning westward toward Europe and America.
Strickland such operational adjustments would become more problematic. “Some alternative routings will be much more difficult. For example, routes to South America have to go over Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Rerouting will bring its own clear challenges. It may not be possible to fly nonstop, and then Qatar will have to think about new refueling facilities on the ground.”
He said that the restrictions could also put a brake on Qatar’s ambitious aviation expansion plans. “Qatar Airways has been a carrier in expansive mode, operating from a new state-of-the-art airport. The restrictions will have a significant effect on all that.”
Other Gulf airlines will also feel the effect, though to a more limited degree, Strickland said.
“Of course, not flying to Doha means passengers will have to find alternative connections to get to and from there. That won’t be cheap or easy,” he said.
“The longer this spat lasts, the more damaging it will be for everyone — and it will be passengers who suffer most,” he added.
The latest turbulence comes after a year of challenges for the Gulf aviation business, with testing competitive conditions compounded by security fears in the region and in Europe, as well as the laptop ban first imposed on some regional airports by the American authorities.
But Ahmad does not believe the recent problems marked the end of the “super connector” model adopted by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
“There is simply too much demand going through hubs like Dubai for traffic to suddenly halt. And let us face it, there has been no cataclysmic move that would hurt demand; even the laptop ban has not put off other travelers connecting through places like Dubai,” Ahmad said.
“While some may view the region as risky, notably carriers from the US that do not serve the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), overall, passengers will still fly on as normal. There is no security reason nor any other factor that negatively acts as a deterrent. The Qatar spat is bilateral, so the impact is limited to those who serve Doha and to Qatar Airways,” he added.


Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

Updated 20 October 2019

Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

  • Dubai prepares for eye-catching countdown on Burj Khalifa
  • Live performances from singer Mariah Carey and acclaimed Emirati singer and Expo 2020 ambassador Hussain Al-Jassmi

DUBAI: Crowds gathered at different locations in the UAE on Sunday night to mark its one-year countdown to Expo 2020 in October next year, with host emirates Dubai staging a spectacular concert, topped by a light projection on the iconic Burj Khalifa.

American superstar Mariah Carey was the star of the night, which also saw performances from regional artists including Khalifa, Shamma Hamdan, Abri and Funk Radius, Showcase and Jaysus Zain. The audience also grooved to a few Arabic tunes from Emirati singer Hussain Al-Jassmi.

A make-shift stage was set up at the Burj Park in Dubai’s downtown area to host the performances, while people also enjoyed a good view of the tallest building in the world. The countdown was facilitated by Emirati social media sensation Khalid Al-Ameri and Bollywood actress Shraddah Kapoor. 

A 3-minute firework display lit up the skies of Dubai as the crowd eagerly waited for Carey to appear on stage.

The 49-year-old singer sang her all-time favorite songs, including “Emotion,” “We Belong Together,” and a revival of the Motown classic “I’ll Be There,” to an enthusiastic audience who didn’t mind the heat and humidity at the outdoor venue.

The other six emirates also marked the occasion with free-for-all activities in venues such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, Ajman Museum, Umm Al Quwain Corniche, Al Qawasim Corniche in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah Fort.

The events, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Expo 2020 Director-General Reem Al-Hashimy said, will “offer a window into the once-in-a-lifetime celebration that awaits from October 20, 2020.”

“The next 12 months will see us put the finishing touches to ensure an exceptional World Expo,” she added, in a report by state-run WAM.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi featured YouTube sensation Sandra Sahi, as well as singers Stephon Lemar, Layla Kardan, the Emirati Trio.

Indian band ROOH, singer and pianist Clarita de Quiroz, Egyptian oud player Rami Zaki and other regional artists were celebrating the count down at Sharjah’s Al Marjaz waterfront.

While the Ajman Museum hosted Arabic fusion band, pop-rock musician Hydyy, Emirati soul singer Chakram, poet Storm Fernandes, artist Humaira Hussain and MC Mohammed Enaba.

The 6-month Expo 2020, to be held at a vast new site in the south of Dubai, will officially open on Oct. 20 next year, with organizers expecting an estimate of 25 million visitors.