Qatar gets UN green light for airspace expansion

Qatar gets UN green light for airspace expansion
3 min read
01 August, 2021
Qatar’s request to regain control of two airspace regions known as the Doha Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Doha Search and Rescue Region (SRR) is in conformity with the Chicago Convention, the UN concluded.
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300 [Getty]

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations body, has given Qatar the green light to expand its airspace and regain control of a portion it ceded to neighbouring Bahrain under a bilateral agreement.

The organisation said in a newly released official summary that, following a session of the ICAO Council on June 29, it had agreed "in principle" to the new mapping, three years after it first began considering the matter.

Qatar’s request to regain control of two new regions known as the Doha Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Doha Search and Rescue Region (SRR) is in conformity with the Chicago Convention, the organisation concluded.

Addressing the 223rd Council Session, Qatar's Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, said the airspace proposal "demonstrates the huge investments made by Qatar to develop its air navigation system for the benefit of the region as a whole by providing safe, efficient and seamless air navigation services".

Bahrain, another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state, has been providing air navigation services to Qatar from over its sovereign territory.

The smallest of all Gulf state has held control of most of the airspace above the Gulf, with its ‘Bahrain FIR’ stretching from Kuwait to the United Arab Emirates. The decision for Bahrain to retain control of most of the skies above the Gulf dates back to 1971, when the country gained its independence from Great Britain.

Doha had initially agreed for Manama to manage its disproportionally large area of airspace. However, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain announced the closure of their airspaces to all Qatari registered aircrafts in 2017 as part of an unprecedented blockade, pushing the disproportionate distribution of airspace into the spotlight for the first time.

While all states agreed to normalise relations in January, Bahrain has remained the outlier. In a sign of reconciliation, however, it said last month it was willing to work on Qatar’s proposal to gain control of its airspace.

The opening of the new flight path will grant Qatar a new source of revenue, while Bahrain and likely the UAE will face losses. Manama has so far profited from overflight fees of one of the busiest transit areas in the world.