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Friday, February 26, 2021

Bahrain, UAE partly reopen airspace to Qatar

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways aircraft can now access limited Bahraini and the UAE airspace after the nations approved a new route for the airline.

The move follows a directive from a UN aviation body to Gulf states, telling them to honor their airspace agreements with Qatar.

The route opening is being seen as a significant step, some two months after the introduction of punitive airspace restrictions were put into place.

The new airway into Doha

The countries made the announcement through NOTAMs (information notices for pilots). The route is effective from Aug. 7 until Nov. 6 this year.

Only aircraft heading into Doha can use the airway, but it should make flight planning a little easier for Qatar Airways.

The carrier must currently route all of its aircraft through very limited air corridors in and out of Doha.

Further changes hinted

Access to Bahrain’s airspace is critical for the airline, as it actually encircles Qatar.

A map showing airspace in the Gulf region

Bahrain has also signaled further changes to airspace access in another NOTAM it published effective Aug. 17, but has not yet given any more details about it.

The decision to open up the new airway comes a week after the International Civil Aviation Organization met at Qatar’s request to discuss the legality of closed air links.

In a statement today, Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) Chairman Abdullah bin Nasser Turki Al-Subaie said that new route was a direct result of the ICAO meeting.

The airway is over international waters, an area which is supposed to be available to everyone, the statement added.

However, it’s important to note that Qatar Airways aircraft are still not allowed to fly over UAE and Bahrain directly.

Flight restrictions

Since the blockade began, Qatar Airways aircraft have been unable to fly over or into Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This has meant longer flights to many destinations, and the cancellation of hundreds of Qatar Airways flights within the region.

Following the recent meeting, ICAO made clear that Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt should reopen their airspace to Qatari registered aircraft.

This is because they are all signatories of the International Air Services Transit Agreement. This states that countries must not ban other signatories from access to their airspace.

However, Saudi Arabia, which is leading the boycott on Qatar, is not a signatory and thus not bound by its rules.

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