Qatar Airways to go ahead with Irish route plan

Qatar Airways’ plan to launch its first Irish route will go ahead on schedule and will be unaffected by four of Qatar’s Arab neighbours cutting diplomatic ties with the country.

Saudi Arabia — the only country to share a land border with Qatar — has closed the border, cut off trade and revoked Qatar Airways’ Saudi operating licence over allegations of Qatari support for extremist groups.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt have also cut ties with Qatar and have suspended all flights to and from the country.

In April, Qatar Airways announced its debut Irish route — marking Ireland’s first ever link with the Gulf state. The daily Dublin-Doha service will launch, as planned, next Monday and will provide Irish passengers with connection opportunities to more than 150 destinations including to the Far East and Australia.

At the time of the announcement, Qatar’s chief executive, Akbar al-Baker, called Dublin “an important and growing international hub,” adding that “Ireland’s increasing global presence makes the route an attractive investment”.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed plans for the Irish route will be unaffected by diplomatic tensions in the Middle East.

“Qatar Airways operations are running as normal, with no disruptions to flights with the exception of those to the four countries Qatar Airways has been restricted to fly to,” said the spokesperson

“At Qatar Airways, our passengers remain our utmost priority and we will continue to ensure they have a seamless journey to their final destinations.”

It remains unclear, however, what may happen should Qatar Airways be shut out of neighbouring airspace.

Qatar Airways is a major shareholder in Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group (IAG), upping its stake to 20% in April 2016. There was no indication that Qatar Airways’ situation would affect IAG operations. A spokesperson for IAG said the group did not comment on shareholders.

A spokesperson for British Airways (BA), which is also owned by IAG, said that the airline was continuing to operate a full schedule to Doha.

Meanwhile, figues show that Europe’s leading low-cost carriers saw strong passenger growth last month. Ryanair carried 11.8m people across its European route network in May, 11% up on a year-on-year basis; with load factor for the month — which shows how full its planes were — at 95%.

IAG’s group traffic in May increased almost 2% compared to the same month in 2016. The company said an independent investigation will examine every aspect of the power failure that caused an IT meltdown for BA, disrupting thousands of passengers, during the UK’s May bank holiday weekend.

The meltdown is estimated to have cost the airline up to €100m and led passenger numbers to decline by almost 2%. Almost 700 flights were cancelled.

EasyJet’s May traffic was up 9.5% year-on-year, with the airline carrying 7.5m passengers. Load factor was flat at 91.5%.

Norwegian Air carried 2.9m passengers in May, up 11% year-on-year. The company will launch the first ever transatlantic flight from Cork to Providence in Rhode Island next month. Wizz Air saw annualised passenger growth of 22% in May.


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