Several Mideast Countries Cutting Ties With Qatar, Expect Travel Disruptions

I woke up this morning to several emails, blog posts, and news stories about the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahran, and Egypt cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar which in turn cuts commercial air service as well and expels Qatari citizens so far at least in the case of initial countries making this move.

Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai are suspending flights to Qatar starting Tuesday. Egypt has closed its airspace to Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways First Class Check-in

Libya and the Maldives have cut ties with Qatar as a follow-on and so has Yemen. Perhaps more as well as Saudi Arabia is calling on more countries to do so.

While conflict with Israel gets the most press in the U.S., the primary conflict in the Mideast is between Saudi Arabia (along with Turkey) seeking Sunni influence in the region and working to counter Shia Iran. The conflict in Syria, for instance, is largely a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis have fought Iran-backed rebels in Yemen over the past several years.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge, Doha

While Shia Islam is a minority in Qatar, it’s hardly an oppressed minority, and comments were recently broadcast by Qatar state media suggesting that Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was in support of Iran and Hezbollah (and suggesting that Donald Trump wouldn’t remain in power long). Qatar denies that the comments were genuine and claims their media was hacked.

Qatar hosts a major US military installation, but has also been accused of supporting terrorism. Saudi Arabia, of course, fits that same description. Tensions between Qatar and other regional powers especially Saudi Arabia are hardly new, and this new flash point is fast developing.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

In the mean time we’ll have to see how it plays out and how long it lasts to understand how the region, and for our part travel, will be affected. Oil and gas prices could rise as well, which may rebound to the benefit of oil producing nations in the region… like Saudi Arabia.

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 »

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  1. Yeah, these developments are obviously troubling — especially for anyone booked on Qatar Airways. Given the economic blockade, I don’t really see how it could be “business as usual” at that airline. The most immediate impact is that the other Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, say that will bar Qatar Airways from using their airspace beginning tomorrow. For safety reasons, they already do not fly over Iraq. I’m not sure how QR can operate without an ability to fly west.

    Obviously, this is more very bad news for the Middle Eastern airlines. Past the glitz and subsidized low fares, these were never normal airlines, and their neighborhood was never a stable part of the world. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen next. At least for the rest of us, it looks like oil prices will head down due to this conflict, as any shot at OPEC solidarity just went out the window.

  2. I don’t see how QR will be able to fly some of its routes without access to Saudi airspace.

    Take DOH-GRU for example. 7,368 miles, crossing right in the middle of Saudi Arabia. I believe they’d have to add a stop somewhere in Africa of they had to avoid Saudi airspace.

  3. (I posted the same in Lucky’s blog):
    EY has noted that last flights will be on night of June 5, with last flight before dawn from DOH.

    Note that Saudi Arabia has also closed borders, which affects the food and other daily supplies for Qatar; I saw a report about Qataris lining up for food, like people do in South Florida before a hurricane. This also could impact QR.

    We have award tickets using AA miles on QR, for India-DOH-USA on June 21. Any suggestions on how to handle this? When should we contact AA for any alternatives, such as EY to JFK or any other point in the USA? Or, how about British Airways, and does AA still do the YQ surcharges in such cases? Ticket cancellation fees or change fees?

    I know these are relatively trivial, “first-world proble

  4. Sorry, the last part got cut.
    (Is there any way to edit one’s own posts?)
    It should read
    “I know these are relatively trivial, “first-world problems” given the overall situation — but one tends to think of oneself in such situations.”

  5. Hah. So it looks like muslims nations also have some sort of a muslim ban. LOL

  6. I understand that the Maldives has now severed all economic ties with Qatar, banning their aircraft. It’s now officially the Biz Class Points Apocalypse.

    Time to start booking that Bora Bora overwater bungalow instead.

  7. Kr — I’m certain there will be a lively discussion of the QR situation on Flyertalk. You can follow the thread for the latest up-to-the-minute information.

    Realistically, there is nothing you can do today or, likely, tomorrow. You’ll have to wait a few days for the dust to settle. Realistically, though, you won’t be happy with the alternatives. You can always get your miles back with a cancellation fee, but I wouldn’t be surprised if AA might waive that fee for you under the circumstances. The problem is that rebooking on points will likely be impossible (busy travel season and now lots of people will be rebooking). So your best option is probably hoping that QR is still operational on that route. I would think that’s more probable than not. Think of it like the folks who got stuck with Turkish tickets a few months ago after the attempted coup — it mostly worked out for them. Sorry you’ve gotten caught in this situation. Good luck!

  8. I don’t know what trump is doing here and make no mistake they wouldn’t all do this without the go ahead from trump. We have 11k troops in qatar so this seems absurd. Understand something very clearly the guy at CIA who was recently assigned to deal with Iran goes by the nickname the dark prince. He is a hardliner to the exteme and sadly with him in charge it looks like trump is going to push for war with iran and things will spiral fron there.

  9. Hmmmmmm…. that refundable QR “full-fare” Y ticket TXL-DOH-HKT for August that I scored a few months ago is increasingly looking like I’ll want the refund

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