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Defiant Qatar Airways to Continue Expansion

Defiant Qatar Airways to Continue ExpansionDefiant Qatar Airways to Continue Expansion

Qatar Airways struck a defiant tone and vowed to continue expanding, even as its state owner gets punished by neighboring countries in an escalating political standoff that’s threatening to choke the tiny nation’s economy.

The Persian Gulf’s second-largest carrier will introduce a record number of 24 destinations next year, including routes to San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and Dublin and will add 66 Airbus A350 planes over the coming five years. But the airline’s ambitious growth plan could be stunted amid the unfolding diplomatic crisis over Qatar’s alleged support of extremism, Bloomberg reported.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE last week suspended ties with Qatar, severing air, sea and land links. While Kuwaiti officials are mediating in the conflict, those efforts are in question amid conflicting signals from US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“I am extremely disappointed,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said in an interview published on Monday by CNN. The US “should be the leader trying to break this blockade, and not sitting and watching what’s going on and putting fuel” on the fire.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE also restricted airspace to flights linking the Qatari capital of Doha. That has diverted planes that normally cross the Arabian Peninsula, forcing them to make wide detours to reach destinations in Africa, South America and Europe.

The overflight blockade violates International Civil Aviation Organization rules, and Qatar Airways will use “legal channels to object to this”, Al Baker told CNN, adding that he has no intention to “shrink” the airline in the face of growing headwinds.

Qatar Airways has been seeking to turn Doha into a global super-hub to rival the Dubai base of local rival Emirates. Its strategy has included adding destinations served by wide-body planes that use Doha as a transfer point, as well as buying stakes in key airlines such as British Airways parent IAG and South America’s biggest carrier LATAM Airlines.

Despite the trade and travel blockade, “Qatar Airways continues to operate to the rest of its network as per its published schedules with day-to-day adjustments for operational and commercial efficiencies, which is standard airline practice,” the company said.


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