Several of West Asia’s biggest airlines on Monday said they would suspend all flights to Qatar’s capital Doha, after the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Egypt broke off diplomatic relations with the country accusing it of supporting terrorism. The ban will take effect from Tuesday, CNNMoney reported.
Saudia Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Flydubai and Gulf Air said they would halt all flights in and out of Doha starting Tuesday morning.
This leaves only Kuwait and Oman as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council who have not suspended flights to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia on Monday also banned Qatar Airways from flying aircrafts to the kingdom, or using its airspace, starting Tuesday. It also banned all Saudi carriers from flying to Doha. The Saudi civil aviation authority said that any carrier from a third country wishing to fly over the kingdom to Qatar would need to apply within a week for special permission.
The UAE took even more stringent action, stating that it was closing its airspace and seaports for Qatari citizens and “banning all Qatari means of transportation”. The UAE also gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours, and Qatari citizens 14 days to leave the UAE, citing security reasons. UAE citizens are also banned from traveling or transiting through Qatar.
There are around 40 flights from Doha to the UAE on a daily basis.
The Qatari government responded with dismay, calling the four countries’ decision to ban flights an “unjustified decision based on baseless allegations”. In reciprocal action, Qatar Airways on Monday announced that it was suspending all flights to Saudi Arabia. It also asked its citizens to leave the UAE within 14 days to comply with Abu Dhabi’s order.
Qatar was accused by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain of supporting militant groups and interfering in other countries’ affairs. In response, Qatar called the four Arab nations’ decision to cut diplomatic ties a “violation of its sovereignty”, and vowed to its citizens that the decision won’t affect them, reported AP.
The dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries started after the Qatar’s state run news agency was hacked recently, reported Al-Jazeera.