Unfortunately for Qatar Airways, the lack of access to Bahrainian, Emirati, and Saudi airspace could have a devastating effect on its operations.
That’s because Qatar actually has very little airspace relative to the size of the country.
While losing access to Saudi airspace will force Qatar Airways into the costly maneuver of rerouting its Africa-bound flights, losing access to Bahrainian airspace could be catastrophic because it almost completely encircles Qatar.
That means, should the ban hold up, Qatar Airways flights will need to fly through airspace that it is currently banned from in order to reach its home base in Doha.
Qatar Airways did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how they plan to overcome this challenge.
While the countries are free to refuse landing rights, it is unclear if Bahrain and the UAE can legally ban Qatar Airways from its airspace. As signatories to the International Air Services Transit Agreement, Bahrain the UAE can’t legally shut off its airspace to fellow signatory Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, however, is not an IASTA member country and can legally shut Qatar Airways out of its airspace.
According to Flightradar24, Bahrain notified pilots that it will limit flights to and from Qatar by Qatari aircraft through its airspace to a single air route. This means, even if Qatar Airways isn’t grounded, it will be subject to heavy air traffic congestion.
Over the past two decades, Qatar Airways has grown to become one of the most influential international airlines in the world. In 2015, consumer aviation website Skytrax named it the best airline in the world.