Qatar Air plans court claim in Gulf spat

PARISQatar Airways said it could go to court in a bid to claw back the additional operating costs it’s running up after neighbouring states in the Persian Gulf excluded it from their airspace amid an ongoing political dispute with the carrier’s state owner.

The airline is keeping tabs on the business impact of its higher fuel bill as the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt compels its aircraft to take detours that can double the flying time on some routes, Akbar Al Baker, its CEO told Bloomberg TV.

Qatar Air is “making sure that all our business streams are properly documented in order for us in future to go to international tribunals to reflect the pain,” Al Baker said yesterday. The CEO added that he’s unhappy with the response of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in addressing what he says is in an illegal action in closing airspace.

“They have been slow. But those countries have people on the board,” Al Baker said. “We are now waiting two weeks with this situation and nobody has upheld international law.”

The four rival Arab states cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the nation of funding Islamist terrorism, something it denies. The measures have left Qatar Air excluded from 18 regional destinations and forced some long-haul flights to detour via Iran and Oman.

Qatar Airways will “march on” with plans to add new destinations and is “successfully mitigating” some of the impact of the network disruptions, Al Baker said at the Paris Air Show. The airline is seeing an increase in bookings and expects the busy Islamic holiday of Aidilfitri to be “business as usual”. — Bloomberg