Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker, seen here in 2013 announcing his airline’s membership in the OneWorld alliance, is upset because of a virtual blockade enacted by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. Reuters / Fadi Al-Assaad
Qatar Airways said it could go to court in a bid to claw back the additional operating costs it’s running up after neighboring states in the Persian Gulf excluded it from their airspace amid an ongoing political dispute with the carrier’s state owner.
The airline is keeping tabs on the business impact of its higher fuel bill as the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt compels its aircraft to take detours that can double the flying time on some routes, Akbar al Baker, its chief executive officer, told Bloomberg TV.
Qatar Air is “making sure that all our business streams are properly documented in order for us in future to go to international tribunals to reflect the pain,” Al Baker said Monday. The CEO added that he’s unhappy with the response of the International Civil Aviation Organization in addressing what he says is in an illegal action in closing airspace.
“They have been slow. But those countries have people on the board,” Al Baker said. “We are now waiting two weeks with this situation and nobody has upheld international law.”
The four rival Arab states cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the nation of funding Islamist terrorism, something it denies. The measures have left Qatar Air excluded from 18 regional destinations and forced some long-haul flights to detour via Iran and Oman.
Qatar Airways will “march on” with plans to add new destinations and is “successfully mitigating” some of the impact of the network disruptions, Al Baker said at the Paris Air Show. The airline is seeing an increase in bookings and expects the busy Islamic holiday of Eid to be “business as usual.”
Qatar has no plans to defer any plane deliveries, the CEO said, describing the dispute as an “intimidation game.” He added that the spat won’t affect relations with Boeing and that he’s confident President Donald Trump will take the right steps in mediating between both camps.
ICAO, a United Nations agency, has been brokering diplomatic discussions that it says are aimed at securing a consensus-based solution to the fallout.
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