The closure of the airspace for QR flights imposed by Qatar’s Arabian neighbors will massively impede the carrier’s network and operations. Due to the flight embargo, QR is losing one fifth of its current network, torpedoing its hub and spoke system. Meanwhile the rift parting the Arabian world is widening – mainly to the detriment of Qatar Airways and their cargo activities.
The rift, following U.S. President Trump’s bizarre sword dance in Saudi Arabia and his one-sided support of the Kingdom’s policy, has hit travel plans, affected flows of cargo and led to a
complete isolation of Qatar and their national carrier QR Airways. Following Saudia, Etihad, Egyptair and Emirates, more carriers have cancelled Doha services. According to the Moroccan state
news agency MAP, Royal Air Maroc stopped all flights via Qatar to the neighboring countries with immediate effect. The step might halt a strategic partnership agreed on between RAM Cargo and QR
Cargo in August of 2015, aimed at sharing capacity and using both Doha and Casablanca as transit points for consignments.
Meanwhile, Qatari nationals are not allowed any longer to pass through airports in the UAE even to change planes. Yesterday (6 June), Saudi Arabia and Bahrain revoked the licences of Qatar Airways ordering the carrier’s local offices to terminate all activities within 48 hours.
In a reaction, Qatar Airways has cancelled their entire operations to and from the boycotting countries, which had averaged 55 a day before the diplomatic row, writes Gulf News in a report. Both cancellations and network disruptions have caused a lot of uncertainty among the carrier’s cargo clients and – predominantly – their passengers. This is evidenced by Twitter comments aired by worried travelers right after the ban was imposed by Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt.
Writes Feras Al-Taher: “I have a flight in August, from Riyadh to Baku via Doha… How can I claim a refund?” The tweet was left unanswered by QR.
A passenger named Pedro asks: “What happened to the flight DOH-GRU now that the airplane can’t fly directly?” No reaction by QR either.
A Meynsteffi requests support in her tweet, stating: “I have booked a ticket for 30th June to Melbourne via Doha from Dubai and return, too. I spent a fortune on these tickets. Help please.” Nothing voiced from QR.
People using social media like Twitter or Facebook to receive first-hand information asking for assistance were mostly left alone, as a person named Vivek Khandelwal claims in his tweet in reaction to this QR announcement: “We are dedicated to assist all of our passengers and are at your disposal if any assistance is required.”
States passenger Vivek: “Unable to speak to anyone from QR. I’ve got bookings for this month from DXB to JFK and no one answers call on (QR’s) UAE number.” Others confirm the carrier’s lack of personal service, like AndyBTravels: “Worst airline for this to happen with! I don’t think Customer Service exists in QR.”
Redistribution of cargo
Meanwhile, cargo agents started handing over their shipments to QR competitors, like logistics firm EMO-Trans, confirmed by their head of air freight, Bernhard Stock: “Consignments bound to Abu Dhabi, Dubai or other places in the Middle East we started allocating to carriers that are not affected by the embargo. Among them are Emirates, Etihad but also Lufthansa Cargo or Air France-KLM.”
Liege remains relaxed…
Asked for a comment on QR Cargo’s operational reactions to the ban, managers of the carrier refrained from reacting. “We must handle this new situation professionally,” stated a representative who doesn’t want to read his name here. “So far, we haven’t got new instructions from our headquarters.”
Quite relaxed reacted VP Commercial Steven Verhasselt of Liege Airport. “From our side we don’t expect any influence on the very successful and stable QR Cargo operations in Liege,” Steven said. “We support all our carriers, in any kind of way we can as an airport. The flexibility of Liege airport might be part of the solution should schedules be disrupted. We definitely stand with our customers when challenges come by and we are ready to support.”
Currently, QR Cargo operates 21 flights per week in and out LGG, offering the local market 2,000 tons transport capacity.
… so does Brussels Airport
“No changes for the moment, and I do not expect anything to happen in the short time. I am convinced that the QR management is taking care and will do what they find necessary and appropriate to manage this situation,” stated head of Brussels Airport Cargo, Steven Polmans when asked by CargoForwarder Global. BRU is another European hotspot for QR Cargo flights.
Political change vs isolation
In the meantime, the tensions between Doha and its neighbors are rising. Anwar Bin Mohammad Gargash, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said in an interview with CNN that “the Gulf Emirates and our allies are fed up with Qatar's 'duplicity'.” Various countries - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, and other states – “have had enough of this sort of duplicity that we’ve seen, that has been undermining the region. It is time for cooler heads, to restructure Qatar’s approach on foreign policy,” emphasized the politician.
Right after the interview, Gargash put further pressure on Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family by indicating that in case politics do not change, Qatar needs to understand that it’s left on its own organizing their economic affairs by themselves.
Surely a bleak outlook for Qatar Airways and their cargo business.