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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?

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?


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 dit 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 213, 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. Reuters cited an official from one of the four Arab countries regarding some key demands:
  • 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.

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.


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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35 Comments on Travel news: is it safe to fly Qatar Airways?

  1. Robert Schneider // June 9, 2017 at 6:14 pm // Reply

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for your efforts..! Well researched, better summarised than the most other articles referring to this issue.


  3. Colin Birch // June 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm // Reply

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


  4. Shyam Ullal // June 11, 2017 at 4:07 am // Reply

    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 Your connections in DOH should be fine. Enjoy your trip and the magnificent scenery around Cape Town!


  5. 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.



    • 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 Safe travels and enjoy your trip!


  6. JOEL PETERS // June 14, 2017 at 10:20 am // Reply

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



  7. 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…



  8. is it safe to fly with Qatar airway to London?


  9. Munirah Ismail // June 15, 2017 at 1:13 am // Reply

    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?


  10. 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?


  11. 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.


  12. 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.


  13. 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.


  14. Donald Windybank // June 19, 2017 at 6:42 am // Reply

    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!


  15. Anca Chirila // June 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm // Reply

    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?


  16. daryl stegall // June 19, 2017 at 9:24 pm // Reply

    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!


  17. 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


  18. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Georges GOURON // June 21, 2017 at 3:49 am // Reply

    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


  20. Georges GOURON // June 21, 2017 at 12:55 pm // Reply

    Thank you for your answer. Very much appreciated.


  21. 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.


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