Qatar Airways expected to access new flight routes to bypass Saudi-led blockade

The Qatar owned airline is expected to be granted access to three new flight routes after it was denied using airspace of the four Arab states imposing an economic blockade.

Qatar Airways is expected to have access to three contingency routes over international waters in early August, after a UN-led meeting on Monday discussed air corridors for Doha amid the Gulf crisis.

The closed-door meeting with the UN aviation agency’s governing council discussed contingency routes that had been planned as part of a preliminary agreement reached earlier this month, but not yet opened to Qatar-registered planes.

Qatar had asked the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to intervene after its national carrier was denied access to the airspace of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as part of economic sanctions.

The four countries severed ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism, something Doha categorically denies.

The closing of their airspace has forced state-owned Qatar Airways to fly longer, more expensive routes, prompting Doha to push for international corridors over Gulf waters currently managed by the United Arab Emirates.

“Within a week or so they should have new routes,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

A spokesman from ICAO could not comment on the Monday talks.

Delegations from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Canada could not be reached for comment on Monday.

On Sunday, Saudi state news agency SPA cited a statement from the Saudi aviation authority (GACA) saying they had already agreed to nine emergency air corridors, which were identified under ICAO supervision, and would be open from August 1.

However, Qatar’s transport and communications ministry and its aviation authority denied the four countries had taken such a decision, the state news agency QNA said.

In comments to Qatar-based Al Jazeera, Qatar’s transport and information minister said the boycotting countries had discriminated against Doha in violation of an international agreement guaranteeing overflights.

“These countries have used this right arbitrarily and imposed it on aircraft registered only in the State of Qatar,” Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti said.

ICAO cannot impose rules on states, but regulators from its 191-member countries almost always adopt and enforce the standards it sets for international aviation.

On Monday, Qatar also filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organisation on Monday to challenge the trade boycott.