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What a bizarre and unfortunate week it’s been for Qatar Airways. On Saturday, executives were presumably planning a soft launch of the airline’s fantastic new Qsuite business class product ahead of the Paris Air Show. On Sunday, QR was in full damage-control mode, working around the clock to scrap routes, reposition aircraft and rebook passengers — in many cases, on partner airlines, even though Qatar’s own aircraft remain in tip-top shape.
The reason? Well, we’re still not quite sure, beyond accusations from Saudi Arabia that resulted in that country, and a handful of allies in the region, cutting off all diplomatic relations with the entire nation of Qatar. By Monday night, flights between Doha and several countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — had ceased entirely, and Qatar Airways was no longer permitted to fly into (or even over) the aforementioned countries.
Qatar outlined the situation in a statement on its website:
Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt until further notice. All customers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination.
According to Routes Online, hundreds of flights have been canceled this week alone, including the following flights operated by QR:
Doha – Abha (2 daily)
Doha – Abu Dhabi (6 daily)
Doha – Bahrain (7 daily)
Doha – Borg el Arab/Alexandria (10 weekly)
Doha – Cairo (17 weekly)
Doha – Dammam (5 daily)
Doha – Dubai al Maktoum (4 daily)
Doha – Dubai International (17 daily)
Doha – Gassim (2 daily)
Doha – Hofuf (5 weekly)
Doha – Jeddah (4 daily)
Doha – Luxor (7 weekly)
Doha – Madinah (3 daily)
Doha – Ras al Khaimah (4 weekly)
Doha – Riyadh (24 weekly)
Doha – Sharjah (2 daily)
Doha – Taif (1 daily)
Doha – Yanbu (4 weekly)
Additionally, Air Arabia, Air Cairo, Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad, Flydubai, Gulf Air and Saudia have canceled all flights to and from Doha.
Once the ban went into effect, aviation enthusiasts and travelers alike took to Twitter to quickly point out the unusual routing for flights to and from Qatar:
Meanwhile, aviation expert Jason Rabinowitz has managed to stay positive with some of his QR coverage.
In some cases, these new flight restrictions have extended travel time by more than an hour:
But it gets worse than that — the airline’s nonstop flight to Sao Paulo now needs to refuel in Athens in order to complete its journey:
Thanks to phenomenal premium-cabin award availability, you may be planning to fly Qatar Airways this week or in the near future. I flew the airline from Philadelphia to Doha then on to the Maldives just last month, with my mom and sister in tow, and we had a fantastic experience — and an entirely empty mini-cabin in business class.
Fortunately, Qatar is continuing its two daily flights to the Maldives, so if you’re booked on that route you’re still in good shape. If you have a flight booked to/from anywhere in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain, though, you’ll need to contact Qatar Airways or your travel agent to get rebooked. You’ll almost certainly be able to change or cancel your flight for free, though, including dropping canceled segments. Additionally, Qatar Airways is rebooking passengers on its various Oneworld partners — if you were scheduled to fly London to Dubai via Doha, for example, you’ll most likely be rebooked on a nonstop British Airways flight at no additional charge.
The airline is encouraging passengers with existing Qatar-issued tickets to call +974 4022 0072 for assistance. You can also contact your local office — in the US, you’ll want to call 877-777-2827 between 8:00am and 9:00pm Eastern Time Monday-Friday or 9:00am-5:30pm on the weekend. A list of other local phone numbers is available here. Again, Qatar will most likely only be able to assist with tickets issued on its own ticket stock — if you’ve redeemed American Airlines miles for your flight, for example, you’ll need to call AAdvantage instead. Be prepared for a very long wait if you’re calling Qatar’s Doha line — you may have better luck with an international office.
Have you been affected by the situation in Qatar?
Know before you go.
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