Qatar chief Al Baker calls on ICAO to declare GCC blockade “illegal”

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Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker has called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to declare the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) blockade “illegal”.

Last week, carriers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates suspended flights to Doha, Qatar’s capital amid a diplomatic row, accusing them of funding terrorist organisations.

Emirates, flydubai, Air Arabia, EgyptAir, Gulf Air Saudi Arabian Airlines and Etihad Airways have all suspended flights to and from Doha.

All four countries in the Gulf closed off their airspace to Qatar Airways, which in turn had to suspend 50 flights a day within the Gulf.

Al Baker, says: “This blockade unprecedented, and it is in direct contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflight. We call upon the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to declare this an illegal act. We are not a political body, we are an airline, and this blockade has stripped us of the rights which are guaranteed to us.”

In light of the blockade, the airline has significantly increased the operations of its global call centre and social media to ensure concerned customers receive the best possible care, and extended its commercial policy to ensure greater flexibility for refunds and rebooking for any passengers whose flight is impacted by the recent travel bans.

Qatar Airways’ says despite the situation operations to and from its Doha hub are running smoothly, with the vast majority of flights operating as scheduled.

In the past week, it has flown 1,200 flights between Doha and its network of more than 150 destinations around the globe, with 90 per cent of those flights departing within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure time.

Al Baker adds: “Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances. Our focus is on supporting any passengers impacted by the current situation and ensuring that we continue to deliver our award-winning service.

“Our network expansion continues with two new destinations launching in the next month. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”

Yesterday, Qatar Airways launched direct service to Dublin, in Ireland and a service to Nice, France, will commence on 4 July, and flights to Skopje, in Macedonia, on 17 July.

Other new destinations planned for the remainder of this year and 2018 include Las Vegas (US), Canberra (Australia), Douala (Cameroon), Libreville (Gabon), Medan (Indonesia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Santiago (Chile) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), as well as many others.

Earlier this week the airline released its annual report for the fiscal year 2017, revealing a net profit of $541 million, a 21.7 per cent year-on-year increase and an annual revenue rise of 10.4 per cent.