The inaugural Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin landed yesterday as the airline pleaded with the UN to intervene in the crisis which has seen the Middle Eastern country cut off from its neighbours.
There was no sign of tension from Qatar Airways officials in Dublin as the diplomatic row rumbles on. The dispute saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain close their airspace to Qatari flights a week ago.
Qatar Airways will operate its daily Dublin service with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. CEO Akbar al Baker said it provided Irish passengers with easier access to countries including Australia. A UN aviation body should declare Gulf Arab measures against Qatari air traffic as illegal, Mr al Baker said earlier. He appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency which administers the Chicago convention that guarantees civil overflights.
“We have legal channels to object to this. International Civil Aviation Organisation should heavily get involved, put their weight behind this to declare this an illegal act,” said Mr al Baker.
The UAE and Bahrain have signed the 1944 convention. Saudi Arabia is not a signatory. Al Baker said 18 destinations were now out of bounds for the airline. He also criticised Saudi Arabia and the UAE for shutting down the airline’s offices.
“It is actually a travesty of civilised behaviour to close airline offices,” said Mr al Baker. “Airlines offices are not political arms. We were sealed as if it was a criminal organisation. We were not allowed to give refunds to our passengers.”
Mr al Baker said he was “extremely disappointed” in US president Donald Trump.
“The USA should be the leader trying to break this blockade and not sitting and watching what’s going on and putting fuel on the fire,” he said.
Mr Trump last week waded into the worst Gulf Arab rift in years and praised the pressure on Qatar, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain accuse of supporting Iran and funding Islamist groups, charges that Doha denies.
Mr al Baker said he would not delay any plane orders or put expansion plans in other countries, such as India, on hold. On Sunday, Qatar Airways reported an almost 22% rise in net profit in its last financial year, which ended in March.
The UK has urged Gulf states to ease a blockade of Qatar.
Additional reporting: Reuters
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