In a pretty stunning announcement, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, (announced shortly after) and The Maldives announced an immediate cessation of diplomatic relations with Qatar. It’s a convoluted argument, but The Guardian (and many other outlets) reports that Saudi Arabia cut all diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar and urged “brotherly countries to do the same”. So far the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have joined.
Much of this is due to Qatar’s close relationship with Iran, sworn rival of Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Iran share rights to the largest oil field in the world, so it’s understandable that they’d be pretty close. I’d personally rather not get into the geopoliticals of the situation, since this is just a mere travel blog, but the link above to the Guardian article delves into it pretty well.
So how might this affect Qatar Airways?
Well, the announcement said that all air, land, and sea contracts were immediately suspended between Qatar and the affected countries. This means that Qatar Airways likely will no longer be permitted in the airspace of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, or Bahrain. I’m really curious how this will play out, since Egypt and Saudi Arabia are both quite large and Qatar uses their airspace all the time on myriad routes. And, yes, this means that Qatar jets may not be permitted to land in those countries on scheduled flights.
The countries which cut ties to Qatar are giving Qatari citizens 14 days to leave the country and diplomats 48 hours to return to Doha. I’d expect to see more news in the next 48 hours about what this means.
Wait, does this mean my Qatar flights might be cancelled?
Don’t go cancelling hotels or travel plans quite yet. This news is an hour old. There are all sorts of meetings that will take place before anything is announced. At this point if you are scheduled to fly on Qatar Airways to Egypt, the UAE (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain, the best thing for you to do is pay attention to the news. If flights between Qatar and the affected countries truly are cancelled you will need to make alternate arrangements.
The geopolitical situation in the Middle East is incredibly complex and certain events take place from time to time that bring things to a boil. While this announcement probably catches you off guard, there’s no reason to panic at this point or assume that the Middle East is less safe now than it was yesterday. Let’s all pay attention to the situation and see what happens. I’ll do my best to keep you updated as I find out more information.