Here’s the Mess With Qatar Airways Flights Now That They’re Banned From Neighboring Airspace

Several Mideast nations cut ties to Qatar this week ostensibly because of that nation’s support of terror (though it’s far more complicated, Qatar has been siding with Iran in international affairs despite being majority Sunni, and Middle East conflict is largely proxy battles between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran).

There have been ongoing disputes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and crises have erupted from time to time. This one comes right after the US President visited and signaled unwavering support for Saudi Arabia and a strong position against Iran.

The move is throwing air travel in the region into chaos. Airlines like Etihad, Emirates, and Gulf Air aren’t flying to Doha. And the severing of relations has created limits on Qatari-registered aircraft flying through the airspace of some of the countries involved.

  • Saudi Arabia is requiring special permission for overflying.
  • Egypt requires aircraft to have special permission to overfly.
  • Bahrain has banned aircraft from operating between airports in the two countries.
  • The UAE is requiring special permission.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

You may have heard that Qatar’s airspace is limited.

Qatar does not have its own flight information region, it’s within the Bahrain region. The Doha terminal control area is from ground to 24,500 feet, and above 24,500 feet is the Bahrain Upper Information Region.

Traffic is re-routing primarily via Iran and Iran has published a Traffic Orientation Scheme:

– Qatar outbound Northbound via Tehran FIR-Ankara FIR. FL150-FL190 routing RAGAS-UT430-LAGSA -UL223-TESVA/ALRAM.
– Qatar outbound Southbound via Muscat and Karachi FIRs, FL150-FL190 via RAGAS-M561-ASVIB (KARACHI FIR), and RAGAS-M561-KHM-NEW FIR (MUSCAT FIR)-BUBAS
– Inbound to Qatar from North: FL240-FL300 via ALRAM-UT36-MIDSI
– Inbound to Qatar from South: FL240-FL260 via N312/A453-MIDSI.

Bahrain has published two routes for air traffic in and out of Qatar.

– Outbound: UT430 via RAGAS
– Inbound: UR659 via MIDSI

Bahrain likely can’t legally bar Qatar aircraft from this airspace. And if they could, they likely couldn’t or wouldn’t enforce a no fly area through the Persian Gulf between Qatar and Iran although the lack of service provision would present technical challenges.

Nonetheless, the effect of closed airspace on Qatar Airways flights can be illustrating by flight QR943 from Singapore to Doha. Here’s the routing for that flight into Doha on Sunday:

And here’s the routing for that flight today:

In fact you can see Qatar flights lining up to avoid restricted airspace.

We’re going to see flights taking longer to fly (more circuitous routings), burning more fuel (costly to Qatar Airways), and running into congested airspace (more delays and cancellations). And of course Qatar’s regional operation is severely limited by being unable to fly to four countries in the area. Over 70 flights were grounded Tuesday.

Tomorrow Qatar Airways shows its Abu Dhabi flights zeroed out. Etihad shows theirs cancelled.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Qatar is showing seats for sale again starting Saturday (while Etihad’s are gone through end of schedule). will sell you these seats.

So Qatar is acting as though this is temporary – very short term – while Etihad is acting like this is an ongoing issue for the foreseeable future. Saudia Arabia has ordered Qatar Airways offices in the country closed.

It’s unclear how this resolves itself or how quickly. Qatar is facing enormous pressure to tame its foreign policy and fall in line with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. If they don’t the crisis could escalate, and there have even been threats of attempts at regime change.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Since UAE and Bahrain are signatories to the Transit Agreement which followed the Chicago conventions they have obligated themselves to grant Qatar the right to use their airspace, but not to landing rights. Abandoning this is a big deal, but it could happen. Saudi Arabia is not a signatory and therefore can, and has, banned Qatar from overflying without abrogating their obligations under the agreements.

  2. Have a one way award DOH–> US in October (AA issued)… my flight originates in Tanzania but haven’t booked the Tanzania–>DOH segment yet. My options as I see it are changing the award to be two segments on Qatar (and hope they’re willing/able to fly that route in October) or to call AA and beg them to change it to an Etihad award from AUH–>US without a change fee (and pay for the first segment since AA doesn’t allow Africa/US awards via AUH).

    Do you think AA would be accommodative (since my DOH–>US segment presumably could still be flown, I’m only screwed getting TO doha)? I’m wondering what I should or shouldn’t say to improve my chances.

  3. Very Interesting. I have 2 seperate AA awards in August: ATL-DOH-BAH & BAH-DOH-MAD-XRY. Any word on how AA is handling Qataria awards in this evolving shamal?

  4. For anyone interested in getting to the bottom of this bizarre situation, ZeroHedge has an excellent article today about Qatar, funding and terrorism. The facts will make your head spin:

    And if this isn’t bizarre enough, look at Trump’s twitter feed today. He seems to be supporting the Saudis.

    With all the sources of information being biased and unreliable — and Trump’s involvement won’t make this situation better — it is impossible to know who is right or wrong in this dispute.

  5. Using as a source of valid information is ridiculous. No Gary, not you, a commenter has done so

  6. There’s only one question – what’s happening lately?!!! Passengers are dragged off of planes, the whole system of BA breaks down, and now this. Can’t we just reserve a seat without worrying that we won’t be able to actually take it? Now it’s better than ever to know your rights to a flight compensation.

  7. As an American, I wouldn’t care to fly through Iranian airspace, lest their be a mechnical issue requiring emergency landing. Therefore, I’d not be flying Qatar Airways.

  8. Keep me posted if anyone hears how AA is handling award travel? I have an award booked through AA on Qatar Airway LAX-DOH-SEZ booked for the end of June, with a return in early July SEZ-DOH-BOS. According to Qatar Airways, my flight is not affected at this time, but I am nervous as this is a special vacation and it is coming up quickly. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has ideas or thoughts on any options I might pursue?

  9. “Tame its foreign policy”? How about starting by not sending close to a billion dollars to Iran to support terrorism?

    Thank God that we have an adult back in charge of foreign policy in the U.S.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *