UAE closes airspace to Qatar flights as Gulf row deepens

Civil aviation authority bans all international flights serving Doha from flying through its airspace
(Photo credit should read REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)\nRestrictions
By Bloomberg
Thu 08 Jun 2017 01:51 PM

The United Arab Emirates has banned all international flights serving Doha from flying through its airspace amid an escalating diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.

The UAE’s airspace will be closed to any planes flying to or from the Qatari capital until further notice, the country’s civil aviation authority said Thursday in an emailed statement.

The move expands on an earlier ban on direct flights between the two countries and UAE travel restrictions outlined Wednesday on Qatari passport-holders and citizens of other nations who have Qatari residence permits.

The UAE joined countries including neighbours Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in severing diplomatic ties with Qatar this week as well as any air, sea or land links.

They accuse the tiny Gulf state of supporting Islamist militant groups, an allegation it denies. With all adjacent Arabian peninsula nations now either shutting their airspace to Qatar or demanding advance clearance, planes serving the country are now limited to routes to its north, via Iran and Kuwait. That disrupts flights to Doha particularly from Africa, India and Southeast Asia, which would usually use shortcuts over Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar Airways said Wednesday that it chartered four flights to return passengers from Saudi Arabia to Doha via Kuwait or Oman, which haven’t cut ties. Otherwise, “global operations are continuing to run smoothly and remain unaffected,” CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement at the time. The carrier didn’t respond Thursday to requests for comment on the UAE’s move.

The state-owned airline has been the biggest victim of the Gulf travel bans, another blow to its earnings amid woes including the US’s prohibition on laptops in plane cabins and reduced premium-class travel as low oil prices hamper the region’s economic growth.

Separately, the Qatar Airways website appeared to have been blocked by service providers in the UAE.

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