The small Persian Gulf state of Qatar has been slapped with a ‘Red List’ travel ban by the British government and the decision could have major ramifications on the thousands of people who have been flying with Qatar Airways to get to the United Kingdom through the pandemic.
From Friday, foreign nationals who have been in or travelled through Qatar will be banned from flying to the UK – this includes transit passengers who might only be passing through Doha’s Hamad International Airport for just an hour or two.
In addition, British nationals who are still allowed to travel or transit through Doha will be forced into mandatory hotel quarantine for 10-days and at a cost of £1,750 per person. The British government said that the move “follows new data showing an increased risk of importation of variants of concern”.
Direct passenger flights will be banned but cargo flights will still be allowed. Passengers hoping to get to England via Doha will now have to travel via a fourth country in order to reach England. In recent weeks, Qatar Airways has been operating up to 28 weekly flights to London and 17 weekly flights to Manchester.
Other airlines affected by the Red List ban have operated cargo-only flights to England and continued to operate passenger flights from England.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was added to the UK’s Red List in late January over fears that the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa could be imported through Dubai or Abu Dhabi. But while the UAE has since banned direct flights to South Africa, the same restrictions have not applied to Qatar Airways which has ramped up its operations in the country.
“With over 24 million vaccinations delivered in the UK so far, the move will help to reduce the risk of new variants – such as those first identified in South Africa and Brazil – entering England,” a statement from the Department for Transport explained.
Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia will also be added to the Red List while Portugal and Mauritius are being removed from the list.
“The government has made it consistently clear it will take decisive action if necessary to contain the virus and has taken the decision to add these destinations to the red list,” the DfT statement continued.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre makes the decision on what countries should be added to the Red List based on a range of factors including travel connectivity and how good a country’s genomic sequencing capability is.
The travel ban will come into effect at 4 am on Friday. Qatar Airways has been contacted for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.