Qatar Airways calls on ICAO to lift "illegal" airspace ban

14 / 06 / 2017

Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker has called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to lift what it describes as the illegal airspace ban it faces in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

In a statement issued earlier today, the airline said 90% of its flights had managed to depart within 15 minutes of schedule despite the airspace ban, implemented after Qatar (the country) was accused of destabilising the Middle East region – allegations it denies.

Al Baker said the airline itself is not a political entity and called for the ban to be lifted.

He said: "This blockade unprecedented, and it is in direct contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflight.

"We call upon ICAO to declare this an illegal act. We are not a political body, we are an airline, and this blockade has stripped us of the rights which are guaranteed to us."

He added: "Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances. Our focus is on supporting any passengers impacted by the current situation and ensuring that we continue to deliver our award-winning service.

"Our network expansion continues with two new destinations launching in the next month. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”

As well as the closure of airspace, Saudi Arabia has closed its land boarder, which is how 40% of food imports arrive in the country.

In response to the situation, Oman Air has reportedly upped its capacity flying Muscat-Doha by 25% as Oman has positioned itself as a transhipment centre for Qatar in terms of air and sea operations.

The Jordan Times reports that exporters of fruit and vegetables are flying 90 tonnes of produce out of the country to Qatar each day to bypass the land boarder closure.

There are also reports that one business entrepreneur has brought forward plans to fly out 4,000 cattle to the country as he looks to establish a dairy farm in Qatar.

The plans were already in place, but the business man is now hoping operations at his diary farm are underway by the end of the month, rather than September, and is looking to move the 4,000 cows on 60 flights rather than use ocean transport.

Qatar Cargo said nothing had been confirmed at the moment, but it would send out information if the cattle flights do take place.

Iran Air is also reported to have operated five aircraft each carrying 90 tonnes of cargo, mainly food, to Qatar.