Bahrain and the UAE have illegally blocked the airspace, said Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways. Talking to Al Jazeera, Al Baker said the airspace that they have blocked does not belong to them, it belongs to the international community.
“Bahrain and the UAE have illegally blocked that airspace. The airspace that they have blocked does not belong to them, it belongs to the international community. It has been given to them, the flight information region which is called FIR, which is by International Civil Aviation Organisation,” said Al Baker.
“These countries have signed the Chicago Convention, in which they have agreed to comply with the air services transit agreement. So they are in violation of article one, section one, of that convention,” he added.
He said that they were also disregarding an airspace that had been provided to them by a UN body to administer for the purpose of international air transport facilitation and safety. So they do not have the right to blockade this.
“However, we have another channel to go out. It is over the Qatar air space into Iran. And, as it is, we were operating our flights, many of our flights over the same airspace in Iran, and we continue to do so, only that we have to have a detour. So all the acts that they are doing are illegal, and it is a travesty of civilised behaviour, conducting international business,” he said.
Qatar Airways has very strong growth plans, said the Group Chief Executive. “We are very resilient as an airline. However, I do agree that there are some dark clouds, and I should not be hiding my concern that we will underperform, but not to the extent of our neighbours, because Qatar Airways has a very strong growth plan. You know that not too long ago I announced that I was going to increase to 24 new destinations,” he said. “I couldn't do it because I had capacity restraints. Now that we have a release, capacity from the 18 destinations, that we have been barred illegally from operating, we are now going to accelerate the other regions of the world, where we feel that we will mitigate the reduction in passenger numbers from this 18 destinations.
So Qatar Airways has a robust plan B, to continue our march ahead,” he added.
He said that taking care of its passengers is its top priority. “We have managed to make sure that life will continue as normal. For an airline, for us, the biggest priority is for us to have a gateway in and out of my country, which we are very successfully handling, and at the same time, it is our passengers for which it is our responsibility. First, to re-route them, second to give them a full refund if they chose to do so, and thirdly if they choose to travel on Qatar Airways, that we give them the highest amount of care that we give to our passengers,” said Al Baker. “Qatar Airways is very strong, financially, we will persevere. And at the same time, we will make sure that every single passenger is guaranteed, that if it chooses after booking on Qatar Airways not to travel on Qatar Airways, we will give them their refund. So they don't have any risk of losing the money that they have invested in Qatar Airways,” he added.
The current crisis will not only affect Qatar Airways but the national carriers of neighbours will also be impacted.
“Let me tell you that as we are being affected, so are our neighbours who have gotten into this illegal act of blocking us. Their national carriers are also getting affected. What is also doing is letting the entire region's air connectivity confidence to be lost. So they are in the same basket. So they should not think that they'll be going laughing to the bank, while they are putting economic pain on my country,” said Al Baker.
He added that some neighbours are jealous of Qatar’s growing global clout. “There is a political motivation because this state of Qatar is always at the forefront of solving problems in our region, trying to bring a look at things in a very stable manner. Qatar is also taking high profile political initiatives, and this is creating jealousy. Actually, they want Qatar to coax them into their sphere of influence.
They want Qatar's sovereignty to be under their control. And I don't think the state of Qatar will agree to relinquish our foreign policy and our sovereignty in anybody's hand,” he said.
He added that there was a huge international sympathy by people on Qatar. “Everybody knows that Qatar is being bullied. But their opinion is misplaced, and I'm glad that it will never get bullied by anybody. And I am glad that more and more people are now coming on the side of Qatar because of this illegal act imposed on my country,” he said. (Source)
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