More countries have severed ties with Qatar as an ongoing diplomatic crisis continues to disrupt air travel.
CNN reports that four additional countries – Mauritius, Mauritania, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government – have joined the original five of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. Etihad, Emirates, Fly Dubai and Gulf Air have cancelled all flights in and out of Doha.
Qatar Airways reports that its three charter flights to bring passengers from Saudi Arabia to Doha were concluded successfully yesterday. The airline has organized an additional flight with Kuwait Airlines on Wednesday to transport the remaining passengers. Qatar Airways has asked all passengers to report to the airport three hours before the flight.
All passengers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including a full refund on unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative destination, Qatar Airways said.
Etihad Airways has said that all travelers holding Qatari passports are prohibited from traveling to or transiting through the UAE, according to U.S. News and World Report. The ruling applies to all airlines flying into the UAE.
According to an analysis in Reuters, the diplomatic crisis could exacerbate a number of problems Gulf carriers have faced over the past few months, including the ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in airline cabins. British aviation consultant John Strickland noted that Qatar Airways’ business model relies on being a hub, and losing a key source of traffic from major local markets will hurt the airline. Additionally, a ban on overflying Saudi Arabia will force the airline to reroute some of its operations, which could lead to longer flights, higher fuel costs and schedule disruptions.
According to the CNN report, Gulf nations have criticized Qatar for alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Analysts have also said that the dispute is driving by a belief that Qatar is too closely aligned with Iran.
The crisis comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blocked several Qatar-based media outlets following comments allegedly made by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani hailing Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticizing President Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran. Qatar claims that the website was hacked and the report faked. Monday, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency said the move to cut ties was to “protect national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.”
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