The real motive behind air-blockade on Qatar

 05 Jul 2017 - 11:21

The decision of the civil aviation regulators of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to prevent Qatari aircrafts to use their airspace was based on the pretext of rights of sovereignty to protect their national security.

This is without giving a single evidence about the type of the imminent risks or threats that Qatari commercial flights could pose to their national security when passing through their airspace or landing at their airports.

Whatever the reasons three countries may present to justify the measure, the closure of airspace is unrealistic, extraordinary and has no legal basis. The measure clearly violates the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and its amendments of 1944 which is the international basis regulating the operation of commercial aircrafts and use of airspace by international commercial flights.

I think the measure taken by the authorities in these three countries to ban Qatari aircrafts and companies registered in Qatar from using their airspaces is in fact has been taken for commercial purposes in the first place and to hinder the development of the Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has achieved great successes and made outstanding progresses in international and regional markets of commercial air transports and has began to be seen as one of the best air airline in the world. Its strong presence in the air transport market is alarming and worrisome for many international, regional airline companies, in particular GCC companies and more specifically the ones owned by UAE.

Qatar Airways has engaged in fair competitions with these companies but by offering better services for passengers in all of its flights has won the competition.

Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, established in 1994 and since it has witnessed the fastest growing and has become a landmark in the world of civil aviation not only for its achievements in air transport but as ambassador of the State of Qatar across the world.

The Qatar’s national carrier has currently the youngest fleets in the world of aviation industry with fleet of 192 aircrafts for passengers and air cargo. The average age of its planes is less than five years and has ranked in the first place in safety standards. Its fleet includes Boeings and Airbus including A380 which is the largest aircraft in the world.

Qatar Airways has become a major player in the world and strong competitor in international air transport market, occupying a decent position wining international awards like the one obtained recently - Skytrax World Aviation Award which millions of passengers in the world consider Oscar of aviation industry.

In 2016 Qatar Airways announced that it has signed an agreement to buy 100 Boeing aircraft with different sizes and models with cost of more than $90 billion. It is one of the biggest deal in the history of aircraft purchasing.

The airline is flying until this moment to over 150 destination overall the world covering Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific region, northern and southern Americas.

The opening of Hamad International Airport (AHI) in April 2014 with annual capacity of 30 million passengers, which is expected to rise up to 50 million per year, has made Doha among the major regional and global hubs for commercial aviation.

The HIA realized a number of achievements in 2017, including awards as global 5-Star Airport rating by Skytrax. This 5-Star rating has made the airport among the fifth airports that have offered this prestigious award so far.

In this year also, HIA was ranked Sixth Best Airport in the World, and was awarded the “Best Airport in the Middle East” title for the third consecutive year and “Best Staff Service in the Middle East” for the second consecutive year.

The HIA became an important transit point for air transport among East Asian countries, Europe and America. From January until June this it received 19 million passengers, compared to the same period of last year it increased by 8 percent.

Currently, the Airport has 41 jet bridges, and by the end of this year, the number of passengers is expected to reach to 40 million compared to 30 million passengers last year, which is considers an increase by 25 percent and considers the highest average internationally.

According to all this information which we briefed, Qatar Airways shifted to strong competitor for the airlines of the three gulf counties and even for the international airlines and among European and American.

It seems that three countries with rival airlines – purposely created political differences with Qatar in a bid to use it as a tool for hindering the development of Qatar Airways. This tactic is called trade war representing economic blockade by imposing a no-fly zone (for Qatari planes) in a bid to isolate any trade and economic project owned by Qatar from international markets to damage the economy physically and morally. The seize countries intended to take over commercial markets including international air transport.

From this point of view, it is to be noted that the closure of airspace by three countries is a step basically aimed to inflict Qatar Airways commercial and economical loses which in turn they think is beneficial for the competing airlines of these three countries, so they could take over the market share of Qatar Airways.

This is supported by what was published by a Saudi Economic magazine on June 18, 2017 about a closed door meeting held in Jeddah by several officials from Saudi, UAE and Bahrain civil aviation authorities for dividing and rescheduling the share of Qatar Airlines in Saudi market.

As a result, Qatar Airways was forced out from the markets of three countries and numbers of flights between Riyadh and Dubai increased in favour of Saudi Airlines and between Madinah, Dammam and Dubai. About 70 flights added at the rate of three flights per day – three flights from Dammam and three flights from Jeddah about 18,000 seats.

The market share of Qatar Airways was rescheduled and shared by five Saudi airlines and Emirates about 15 percent share of Saudi market that Qatar Airways was taking over alone. The share of international flights for the destination of different European countries like UK and Australia were also divided as well.

As Saudi and Emirates airlines were unable to compete Qatar Airways legally in race of air transport, three countries as I said in above mentioned paragraphs, closed their airspaces just for gaining economic goals therefore it is refuted obviously as what these three countries gave reasons related to their national security for closing airspace for Qatar Airways are not correct at all.

The reality behind these decisions are related to only economic and commercial issues that came within illegal economic pressure breaching the agreements of the World Trade Center (WTC) and Chicago International Civil Aviation and its amendments in 1944 and bilateral pacts for air transport signed between Qatar and three countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The writer is a Qatari former Judge and a renowned lawyer based in Doha.