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Bahrain Refused to Let Qatar Airways Fly its Citizens Home in Covid-19 Relief Flight… But is it That Simple?

Bahrain Refused to Let Qatar Airways Fly its Citizens Home in Covid-19 Relief Flight… But is it That Simple?

Qatar Airways Hub in Doha Planning 100% Capacity Increase in Huge Expansion Featuring Tropical Gardens

The small Middle East State of Qatar says a group of Bahraini citizens have been stranded in Doha because the Bahrain government won’t let Qatar Airways fly them home. But Bahrain tells Qatar Airways to stop interfering in what it sees as a deliberate attempt to create a political dispute.

Since June 2017, the Kingdom of Bahrain has been part of a Saudi-led bloc of nations that have imposed an economic, political and physical blockade on its Persian Gulf neighbour Qatar. Despite recent signs of tensions between the countries easing, the blockade is still very much in force with commercial flights between Qatar and Bahrain strictly banned.

But rather than bringing nations together, the Covid-19 pandemic only seems to have made the situation even more complicated. Yesterday, Qatar’s Government Communications Office said 31 Bahraini citizens were currently stuck in Doha as Bahrain wouldn’t let Qatar Airways fly to Manama because of the blockade.

The Bahraini’s had arrived in Doha’s Hamad International Airport on Friday off a commercial flight from Iran – a country particularly hard hit by the Coronavirus outbreak and which has been cut off by many countries including Bahrain.

Away from the stunning views of Doha's Corniche, workers say their flats are subject to random inspection. photo Credit: Qatar Airways
Photo Credit: Qatar Airways

“Qatar offered to fly the Bahraini citizens on a private charter flight to Bahrain at no expense to the individuals or the government of Bahrain,” a statement from Qatar’s GCO read. “The government of Bahrain declined this option,” the statement explained.

Qatar says it will quarantine the group of Bahraini’s in a hotel free of charge and will continue to “provide them with hospitality and care” should Bahrain fail to provide a repatriation flight to get them home.

But Bahrain has questioned Qatar’s version of events, saying that Qatar Airways has interfered by arranging commercial flights that unnecessarily expose passengers, crew and airport workers to Covid-19. The country says it had been arranging special charter flights to evacuate its citizens from Iran before Qatar Airways started to fly to the country.

And rather than leave its citizens stranded in Doha for two weeks, Bahrain also said it would arrange a charter flight to collect them on Sunday.

Over the last week, Qatar Airways has heavily publicised its efforts to get people home as one of the last airlines in the region and even globally to still offer long-haul international services. In the last week, the carrier has transported over 100,000 people and has seen load factors over 80 per cent on some key routes to the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The airline said that over 72 per cent of passengers were travelling to their country of origin as travel bans and entry restrictions amidst the Covid-19 pandemic made normal travel all but impossible.

At present, Qatar Airways is still operating to over 75 international destinations, although that is likely to change quickly in the coming days and weeks.