Travel news: is it safe to fly Qatar Airways?

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (June 9, 2017): Is it safe to fly Qatar Airways?

This article is constantly updated with new and relevant information.

Qatar is at the center of the biggest political crisis to hit the Middle East in years, following the severing of diplomatic ties by several countries in the region this week. The events have a major and unprecedented impact on air travel, with cancellations of flights and restriction of airspace, hereby triggering fears for future of Gulf aviation. Qatar Airways, one of the world’s most popular airlines, is badly hit by this crisis, worrying many of its passengers that are scheduled to fly with the prestigious carrier over the coming weeks. I hereby share with you some key facts that you need to know about the crisis and its impact on Qatar Airways:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen (and why now)?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What is the impact on Qatar Airways?
  • What is the impact on other airlines?
  • Is Qatar a safe country to visit?
  • Is it safe to fly Qatar Airways?
QATAR AIRWAYS A380


What happened?

Early on Monday June 5th, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen announced that they were breaking diplomatic ties with Qatar. This list of 5 countries later expanded to nine, with the addition of the Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritania, and Libya’s eastern-based government. Jordan also announced a downgrade of its diplomatic representation with Qatar.


Why did it happen (and why now)?

My blog is about travel and not about politics. But to give you some information on the crisis, the official declaration of Saudi Arabia is  that the move was due to Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region”, naming the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and al Qaeda. However, the government in Doha insists that “these measures are unjustified and based on false claims and assumption” and that the decision was a “violation of its sovereignty”.

Although the exact reason for the diplomatic crisis (and why it took take place right now) is unclear, it may have been triggered by comments allegedly made by Qatar’s Emir – Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani – that were published by the Qatar News Agency website and other government media platforms. The emir was quoted as saying: “Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it. It is a big power in the stabilization of the region”. However, Qatar insists that the emir never said those comments and that the Qatar News Agency website was hacked. It was reported by CNN that US investigators believe Russian hackers were behind it in an attempt to create a rift among the US and its allies in the region.

On June 21st, two weeks after the start of the crisis, Reuters news agency reported that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt had sent Qatar a list of 13 demands and had given the country 10 days to comply with the demands. If Qatar agrees to comply (and it is unlikely it will), the list with demands will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance. Reuters cited an official from one of the four Arab countries regarding some key demands on the list:

  • Shut down the Al Jazeera media network and its affiliates.
  • Halt the development of a Turkish military base in the country.
  • Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran.
  • Cut ties to terrorist organizations.
  • Stop interfering in the four countries’ affairs.
  • Stop the practice of giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries.

Qatar has responded to this list of demands, although details of the response are not immediately available. It is believed though that Qatar did not comply with the demands, since the nation has previously said that the stiff demands are so draconian that they appeared designed to be rejected.

It is important to realize that relations between the Gulf countries and their royal families have been tense for many years. In March 2014, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates already temporarily removed their ambassadors from Qatar, citing interferences of Qatar with their own internal affairs. The tensions are mostly explained by the fact that Qatar (1) maintains good relations with Iran, (2) broadcasts the Al Jazeera television channel; and (3) is accused by its neighbors of supporting political Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. These tensions were exacerbated by the Arab Spring in 2011, when Saudi Arabia and Qatar were seen as backing different sides.


What are the consequences?

The diplomatic crisis has major consequences for Qatari people, expats living in Qatar, tourists in Qatar, and travelers transiting via Doha.

  • Saudia Arabia closed the only land border of Qatar, effectively isolating the nation from the rest of the world
  • All countries that cut their ties with Qatar ordered their citizens out of Qatar.
  • Three Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain) gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries.
  • Qatari diplomats have been given notice to leave their foreign posts.
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrein closed their harbors for Qatari vessels or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals.
  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft. Bahrein requires all aircraft not registered in Bahrain to obtain prior approval to fly in or out of Qatar through Bahraini airspace (which completely surrounds Qatar). UAE went a step further and closed their airspace to all air traffic coming from or going to the Qatari capital of Doha.

As for now, nobody knows how long the land, air and sea boundary closures will remain in effect.


What is the impact on Qatar Airways?

The severing of diplomatic ties with its neighboring Arab countries has a major impact on Qatar Airways, which is one of the most popular airlines on the planet, especially for travel from Europe to Asia, and India to the USA.

  • The affected nations – except for the Maldives (at the time of writing) – have revoked the landing rights of Qatar Airways, ordering the airline’s offices in their countries to be closed within 48 hours and banning all Qatar Airways planes from landing in their airports. Qatar Airways has now cancelled all flights to the affected nations (except for the Maldives), which previously made up a large chunk of its business.
  • Qatar Airways is also grappling with severely restricted airspace, since its planes are not allowed anymore to fly over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. All Qatar Airways aircraft now have to fly through Iranian airspace and can only depart and arrive at Doha via a narrow aerial channel, since Bahraini airspace completely encircles Qatar.
GULF AIRSPACE (source: flightservicebureau.org)

This means that Qatar Airways is suffering badly at the moment. Because of cancelled flights in the region, they have to refund thousands of tickets and take care of their stranded passengers. For example, yesterday, Qatar Airways chartered several Oman Air planes to get their passengers stranded in Saudi Arabia back home. In addition, the restricted airspace and re-routing over Iran means that some Qatar Airways flights are taking longer than normal and therefore burn more fuel and become less attractive to travelers, which will have a financial impact on the airline.

To give an idea, before the conflict, Qatar Airways used Saudi Arabia’s airspace to get from Doha to Beirut, resulting in a flight time of approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes (flight path shown below).

However, since the start of the conflict, Qatar Airways flies over Iran and Turkey towards Beirut, which results in 30 minute extra flight time (flight path shown below).


What is the impact on other airlines?

Etihad Airlines, Emirates, Fly Dubai, Egyptair, Saudia, and Gulf Air have halted all flights in and out of Doha, the Qatari capital. Other airlines have not changed their schedules to/from Doha.


How safe is Qatar?

At the moment Qatar is a perfectly safe place to visit. However, there are some things to take into consideration when you visit the kingdom.

  • Food and water imports are affected as Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar, stranding thousands of trucks carrying supplies. Qatar, a country heavily dependent on food imports to feed its mostly foreign population of 2.6 million, has assured residents it has taken measures to ensure that normal life continues, although that does not stop people in Qatar to flock to supermarkets to stock up on food and water. Amongst other measures, the country is in discussions with Iran and Turkey about securing its food and water supplies to stave off possible shortages.
  • According to  US officials, there is an increased Qatari military activity as the country placed its forces “on the highest state of alert” over fears of an imminent military incursion.

My advice is to always stay up to date with the latest information as provided by the foreign ministry of your home country.


How safe is it to fly Qatar Airways?

From a safety perspective, I would not hesitate to fly Qatar Airways. They have an impeccable safety record. However, it is important to notice that while the airline is very safe, the country Qatar itself does not meet all 8 safety parameters as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), hence reflecting why the airline does not have a perfect safety score on Airline Ratings.

However, the retraction of the landing rights and closure of airspace does have a major impact on the airline:

  • At the moment, you cannot fly anymore with Qatar Airways to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. If you are heading to one of these nations and you have already booked your flight with Qatar Airways, you will have to request a refund with the airline or request a rebooking on another carrier.
  • Qatar Airways aircraft now have to fly through Iranian airspace. These altered routes lead to longer flying time, hereby lowering demand and increasing fuel costs, and thus affecting the airline’s profits. In addition, it may also affect your time in transit in Doha and make you miss a connecting flight. So in case you have a flight on Qatar Airways in the coming weeks, you better check your itinerary to make sure that you will still be able to get to your destination in time.

At the moment,  I would not hesitate flying Qatar Airways, as long as my country of departure or end destination is not a country in the Gulf area (except for Qatar itself, and the countries of Kuwait and Oman who stay neutral in the diplomatic conflict). However, I would be more hesitant about booking at ticket with Qatar Airways to the Maldives, since I am not sure whether the carrier will be banned from flying to the Indian Ocean archipelago when the crisis continues (and that’s a shame, since Qatar Airways offers one of the best connections for travel to/from the Maldives since they have 2 flights a day between Doha and Male). Let’s hope that the situation resolves quickly, since Qatar Airways offers a stunning onboard product, that I have written a lot about over the past few years in my top 10 lists and trip reports:


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103 Comments

  1. This is the most complete and well organized summary of this issue. Congratulations to the author of this blog who consistently provides hi quality posts.

  2. Very well written article. I wish more articles were written like this rather than having spin and opinion in them.

  3. I am very anxious..we have a flight from LAX to Cape Town.. So I have no idea how many more hours will be from LAX to Doha..normally 15.45 hours and what air space will be available to fly to Cape Town,South Africa..

    • I would not worry too much. The LAX-DOH flight will take it its normal flightpath over Iran, so you should arrive at DOH in time for your connection to CPT. The DOH-CPT flight will make a detour around the UAE and fly over Oman towards the African continent, adding an extra hour in the air. You can check flight paths and times on http://www.flightaware.com. Your connections in DOH should be fine. Enjoy your trip and the magnificent scenery around Cape Town!

  4. Hi there, thanks for a great post. I am flying with Qatar airline from Melbourne, Australia to beirout Lebanon in 3 weeks and stopping over in Qatar for a few hours. My travel agent told me my flight will not be disrupted and that it will be flying over Turkey as I was worried about which airspace it was flying over. Your post however mentioned that Qatar airways will now be flying over Iranian airspace, do you know if that would that also be the case en route to Lebanon? And if the flight will take longer.

    Regards
    Diana

    • Hi Diana, before the closure of the airspace, the Doha to Lebanon flight was always scheduled over Saudi Arabia with a flight time of around 3’45”. Now, the flight will take you over Iran and Turkey, which will add approximately a 30 minutes extra in the air. You can check the flight path and times yourself on http://www.flightaware.com. Safe travels and enjoy your trip!

  5. Hi! I’m based in Singapore and I always fly qatar airline to London. Wondering if my flight would be severely affected?

    Joel

  6. Hi, I’m flying to Cyprus from Sydney, Australia in a couple of weeks and flight times appear the same. Still worried about safely getting over there amidst ongoing tensions and then returning…

    Christie

  7. Hi, I’m travelling to Zurich from KL end of August. I plan to book with Qatar Airways where i will be transiting in Doha. Will the route be affected?

  8. Hi There, I am flying to Madrid from Delhi and back to Melbourne from Madrid via Doha. Is there any interruptions you can think of?

  9. An excellent article on present travel situation in Gulf region.
    Sir, I am planning to travel Dallas/Boston from Mumbai, India in last week of July. Is it ok to take Qatar airways for this rout? Pl.advice.

  10. Hi there, perfect article you have here, Thank you for a very well researched and complete article. I would just like to ask if it’s safe to Fly via Qatar Airways from Philippines to Paris, France. Your answer will be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.

  11. Thank you. Super article. I am about to book Athens to Perth as normal in September. It has a short connection through Doha of 1 hour and 30 mins. Do you think it’s wise to go ahead?

    • It depends. There isn’t any problem on the Perth to/from Doha route, but the Doha to/from Athens route is affected as it used to fly via Saudi Arabian airspace, but now goes over Iran and Turkey. This may add 10 to 30 minutes extra flying time to the journey. This shouldn’t be a problem on your way to Athens but I advise you to make sure that you have enough connecting time on your way back to Perth.

  12. Hi, I was going to book with Qatar air to go from New Zealand to Italy and back in September / October. Do you think this a wise move. We are taking a trip to Italy that we have always wanted to do but never been able to afford Qatar are the cheapest, is it still safe and what is there service like. Will we be safe at Doha Airport for our stopover

    • You will be perfectly safe at Doha, no worries. The service depends on the cabin you are traveling in, but it should be excellent as Qatar Airways offers some of the best service of all airlines. Enjoy your trip!

  13. Hi,
    I was planning on booking Qatar Airways for my flight to Bangkok from Bucharest, via Doha. Is it safe? Does this situation affect said flights in any way?
    Thanks!

  14. Thank you for your great article. My son is flying Qatar from to Singapore to Rome on July 15th with a 1:45 minute connection in Doha. Do you think this flight will be impacted by what is going on with Qatar?
    Would appreciate your feedback
    Thank you!

  15. Hi ! We have booked a flight from BRU -DXB true DOH on the 26.06.17 with Qatar Airways. do you know if they are changing guests on other airlines and if yes on what carriers? Thanks for your info

  16. Does anyone worry about the possibility a Qatar plane being shoot down as it intrude into banned flying zone in middle east? If a Qatar plan has an incident which needs an emergency landing in middle east, would the neighboring countries open up their airports for it? I know these are very extreme scenarios, but try to put up some worst case scenario and wish to hear other comments.

    • We cannot live in fear 😱..if a bad thing happens..its was destined to happen…there is such a thing as calculated risk..

  17. I am flying from Melbourne to Paris via Doha in Septembre. Will the flight time be affected? I have 2h00 stop over in Doha.
    Thank you for any info
    regards
    Georges

  18. Very informative post. I am flying Sydney to Madrid via Doha in August but my return leg is Marrakesh to Sydney via Doha with an 18 hour stopover in Doha. I am quite worried about the return leg in particular.

  19. I am flying to Cairns Australia ex Edinburgh via Doha and Hong Kong in November with a
    One hour fifteen minute in Doha connecting to Hong Kong,will the airspace scenario
    affect this connection

  20. Hi, I am travelling Qatar Airways from Nigeria via Doha to Atlanta, USA in September 2017. Will my flight/flight time be affected by chance?

  21. I am flying from Melbourne to Windhoek via Doha in September. Do you think I will be affected? I still have the option of flying Emirates however it is more expensive.

    • Yes, your flight from Doha to Namibia will be affected, as your plane will have to make a detour around the UAE and fly over Oman towards Africa (instead of flying via Saudi Arabian airspace). Howver, as long as you have enough connection time, there shouldn’t be a problem. I believe that by now, Qatar Airways should have adjusted its flight schedules, taking into account the restricted airspace. Enjoy your trip to the magnificent country of Namibia!

      • Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it. We have 20 hours in Doha. Sounds like that should plenty. I enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work.

  22. Is it safe to fly from Montreal to Doha and then Doha to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Is the air travel time much longer to Sri Lanka now?

  23. Hello,

    I am flying with Qatar Airways – Nice to Bangkok in a couple of months, with a layover in Doha
    I am then flying with Qatar Airways – Bangkok to Amsterdam, again, with a layover in Doha

    I am a bit nervous flying Qatar with all of this tension. Should I be concerned……

  24. Hello
    I am flying Qatar 2/8 from Sydney Australia to Berlin with layover at Doha of 2hr 20 mins. Return flight 25/8 from Zurich to Sydney with layover at Doha of 2hr 40mins. Are these layover times ok considering the altered routes or should I be concerned? Thanks

  25. Hi,
    I am flying Qatar Airways with my family from Dublin to Clark Philippines this coming week and we got 2hrs stop over in Doha. Our 1st time to fly with Qatar Airways. I am a bit worried about the issue. Any info etc. on route ?
    Thank you.

  26. We will fly from frankfurt via doha to windhoek and have 1 hour and 55 minutes between flights. I read the flight will be affected, do you think it will be a problem?

      • We bought the tickets allready in November 2016. Do you kwow what the expectations are for flight wit QA, because Qatar will probably get more restrictions now?

  27. Hi there, I am flying the 21st of July from Cape Town to Doha, and then to Berlin (Tegel), with a layover of 7 hours I think, and back from Berlin to Doha (21hrs) for connecting to Cape Town. How safe is this?

    Thank you in advance

      • I thank you. I am however still very cautious and extremely concern. Do I qualify for a refund in this instances. How safe will I be at Doha, considering my long overlay? how safe will the Iranian airspace be? Sorry if I sound paranoid, but this is worrying.
        Thank for the superb feedback and info

      • Thank you. Would you suggest that I book in at a Hotel for the long stretch I have at hand? what is your best suggestion taking consideration my long overlay of 21 hours in Doha.

        Thank you

  28. Hello, I am flying Qatar Airlines in September from Philly to Bangkok with a layover in Doha. Do think my flight may be affected? Thank you for your time and your blog. Tom

  29. Hey there, I am in England, and i want to book a flight to Punjab, India, with Qatar Airways. Will I be safe with the airline, and would my route be affected? Will i have to have a stopover in Doha?

      • I think people need to stop panicking, Almost all flights are moving with out much of delay..our flight from Doha to Cape Town for example,no extra time was added..and have not heard from any passenger of any safety issues..we stayed in Doha and people are very patriotic and almost every one showing their support for their leader with his picture..

  30. Wanting to book a flight with Qatar from Auckland to Cape Town with a layover in Doha in December. Is it risky to book this flight now? Thanks

    • Flights to Cape Town are affected and make a detour over Oman towards the African continent. By now however, Qatar should have published an updated schedule, taking into account the extra flight time, so you should be fine (but I would allow a connection of at least 2 hours to be on the safe side).

  31. I am about to book tickets for my folks to fly from Durban to New York, should I opt for an Emirates flight over a Qatar flight. My mum seems nervous about flying via Doha?

      • Qatar is number one ,rated by Skytrax..the Qataris’ say they all are ganging up on a small nation like there’s and they are jealous…just returned from flying Qatar airways..only few extra minutes were added to the total 26 hours flight from Cape Town to L.A…

  32. Hello, I am from the Philippines and I am planning to book a Qatar Airways flight to Paris in September with a return from Milan in Oct, will this flight be affected by what is happening in Qatar? thank you.

  33. Hello, we have flight dubai-Edinburgh through Doha on August 10 all the communications from dubai side are blocked, so impossible to contact Qatar airline. Please suggest what we can do, would they return the money back? Thanks

    • You will need to contact Qatar Airways since the Dubai to Qatar flight will probably not operate (since it looks like the sanctions will not be lifted by then). You should try to get a refund via the QA website (or contact relatives abroad to do that for you in case the website is blocked).

  34. Your article is very informative thank you. We are looking to book a trip to Morocco. Departing Sydney Australia to Casablanca via Doha and returning Marrakech to Sydney via Doha. We are not traveling until January 2018. do you think it is safe to book these flights?

    • The flight from/to Casablance will make a large detour via Iran and Turkey, so this will add a lot of extra time (+/- 1 hour) in the air. Flight time from Doha to Casablance is currently 8 hours and 30 mintes, while it’s only 7 hours between Dubai and Casablanca. Make sure that you have a lot of connection time in Doha when you decide to book this itinerary with Qatar Airways.

  35. Hi, we are looking at travelling (return trip) from Birmingham to Auckland via Doha with QA in March 2018 for 3 weeks. The prices and short layover times are appealing but is it worth the risk? This is a once-in-a-blue-moon trip with our young kids to meet family so it’s a big decision!
    Many thanks, great article too!

  36. I’m flying from Perth W Australia to London Heathrow via Doha in September and returning at the end of September will it be okay

  37. you mentioned concerns flying to Maldives on Qatar. We were looking to book a trip from IAH (Houston) to Maldives (9 hour layover in Doha OR layover in Doha and then Colombo). any updates or further concerns with Qatar going to Maldives? Thank you for your post and all the information!!

  38. Hi We are hoping to travel with Qatar from Dublin to Melbourne next March will there be any problems with airspace with regards to this flight.

  39. Hi planning a trip but not until next April, to fly from Sydney to Casablanca via Doha and then returning Barcelona to Sydney via Doha with Qatar – do you see any issues with these flights? really appreciate your view

  40. how about from montreal to bangkok on sept 5 with 4h layover in Doha quatar 4h ? quatar airways all the way, i booked 15 june

  41. Hi there,

    I am traveling to Denpasar, Bali next month and am planning on using Qatar Airways. I am flying from the Washington D.C. airport to Doha for a 1-hour layover then proceeding to Denpasar, Bali which is my destination. I’m very nervous to hear about flying over Iranian airspace. I hate to ask this, but does that make it more susceptible to terrorist attacks from land to air?

    • Don’t worry, planes have been flying since years over Iranian airspace because the war in Syria and Iraq (without any incident or terrorist threat). Enjoy your trip onboard Qatar Airways (you will love the service) and enjoy your Bali vacation!

  42. Hello and thank you for this valuable information. I’m flying from Brussels to Perth next March, from what i understand, there shouldn’t be any problem, hoping you can confirm,thanks 🙂

  43. Hello, Thinking of using Qatar airways from Shanghai to Doha to Geneva early september. Do you know if the tensions have settled a bit since June and if it is considered safe to travel this route?

  44. Hi i am thinking on buying a tickets just now from madrid to manila with qatar airways via doha as it is the most convenient offer.
    Will you do it or look for something else even if it´s (a bit) less convenient?
    thanks

  45. Hello, Thank you for the article. I am about to buy a ticket for my elderly parents to Los Angeles via Doha and there will be a long lay over of over 8 hrs which might require an over night stay in a hotel provided by the airline. Should i be concerned for their safety?

  46. Hello, Thank you for the article. I am about to buy a ticket for my elderly parents from Lagos to Los Angeles via Doha and there will be a long lay over of over 8 hrs which might require an over night stay in a hotel provided by the airline. Should i be concerned for their safety?

  47. Hello, I am travelling from Boston, USA to Mumbai, India with layover at Doha on4th Nov. Should I have any concerns or problems?

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