Qatar Airways reclaims 'World's Best Airline' title despite blockade
Qatar Airways has reclaimed the top spot in the 2017 Skytrax World's Best Airline rankings despite the decision of several Arab countries to ban the Doha-based carrier from using their airspace.
"At these difficult times of illegal bans on flights out of my country by big bullies, this is an award not to me, not to my airline, but to my country," Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said at the Paris Air Show ceremony on Tuesday.
One of the world's fastest-growing airlines, Qatar Airways also won a raft of other major awards at the ceremony, including Best Airline in the Middle East, World's Best Business Class and World's Best First Class Airline Lounge.
The airline previously won the title of the World's Best Airline in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
They accused Qatar of supporting and funding "terrorism" and working with regional rival Iran - charges Doha vehemently denies.
The decision has disrupted trade, split families and raised fears of military confrontation in the Gulf region.
However, in defiance of the blockade and its implications, Qatar Airways is still forging ahead with its ambitious plans for growth.
These include the launch of a major revamp of QSuite, the airline’s Business Class product.
The first of the airline's aircraft to be fitted with the seats, a Boeing 777, is currently on show at Le Bourget in Paris.
Its first flight with passengers will launch on the Doha to London Heathrow route on Saturday.
Last week, al-Baker said in a statement that Qatar Airways was largely unaffected by the boycott decision, operating some 1,200 flights in the first week of the crisis, 90 percent of which took off within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure times.
Earlier this month, Qatar Airways announced profits of $540 million in the fiscal year, which ended in March.