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Diplomatic rift traps airline passengers as Qatar flights cancelled

Six countries cut diplomatic ties indefinitely with Qatar on Monday [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 June, 2017

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Travellers' plans thrown into disarray after Saudi Arabia and UAE-affiliated airlines suspend services to Qatar.
Six airlines owned by Gulf nations or their allies have cancelled flights to Qatar in the wake of the diplomatic row that has erupted between Doha and its neighbours.

The suspension of services to Doha's Hamad International Airport by Emirates, Etihad, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Saudia, Gulf Air and EgyptAir follows the decision of six Arab states to cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The flight cancellations have hit the plans of thousands of passengers travelling to and from the Gulf state in the coming weeks.

"As long as I'm not able to take my connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha, I'll probably have to consider buying a direct ticket with Qatar Airways," a British expat travelling from the UK told The New Arab.

"To get a ticket now at such short notice, I'll be looking at paying £700 ($900) at least. My plan is to wait and see what happens," he added.

The airlines at the centre of the storm have said they will offer refunds and rebooking options for passengers with unused tickets.

"All customers booked on Emirates' flights to and from Doha will be provided with alternative options, including full refunds on unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternate Emirates destinations," the UAE's Emirates Airlines said in a statement on Monday.

Travellers flying on non-Gulf airlines are being advised by authorities that their flights to Doha and other Gulf destinations will not be affected.

Vast stretches of regional airspace have been closed to Qatari aircraft, posing a predicament for travellers looking to leave Doha.

Business travellers on the busy Dubai-Doha route are expected to be among those most affected.

Meanwhile, Qatar's national airliner Qatar Airways on Monday suspended flights to Saudi Arabia.

The disruption of regular flights has raised questions about how the Gulf state will continue to sustain business links across the region.

Concerns have also been voiced about Qatar's ability to host the 2022 football World Cup after the eruption of what is expected to be a protracted dispute.

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