Muscat International Airport is emerging as a key transit hub in the region as harried passengers re-route their journeys after Saudi Arabia and UAE carriers suspended their flights to Qatar.
Qatar Airways too has suspended all its flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt until further notice. Qatar Airways announced that all three flights sent by the airline on Tuesday night to bring passengers from Saudi Arabia to Qatar reached Doha. All passengers arrived home in Qatar via Muscat.
The flights, chartered on Oman Air, departed King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah at 4pm, 10pm and 11pm local (KSA) time on Tuesday and landed in Muscat. A connecting Qatar Airways flight then transported the passengers from Muscat onwards to Doha. The airline had organised an additional flight with Kuwait Airlines on Wednesday to transport remaining passengers in Saudi Arabia to Doha via Kuwait.
The flight departed at 7.15pm local (KSA) time on Wednesday. Qatar Airways has asked all passengers to report to the airport three hours before the flight. Akbar al Baker, group chief executive, Qatar Airways said, ”Qatar Airways has worked tirelessly to ensure that all passengers were brought home to Doha within 24 hours of the flight cancellations."
“We have provided additional crew on the ground to ensure that all passengers are being cared for. Our global operations are continuing to run smoothly and remain unaffected. Our focus is on supporting our passengers and ensuring that we continue to deliver our award-winning service. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”
The airline said it is supporting its staff affected by the situation in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. All passengers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination. Oman Air said that it was deploying bigger planes to Doha.
“Oman Air is upgrading its flights to Doha to bigger aircraft, with more capacity till June 14,” a spokesperson of the airlines told Muscat Daily. Additionally, Oman Air said it has “dedicated three charter flights to Qatar Airways to operate on the Muscat-Jeddah-Muscat sector from June 6.”
The official added that Oman Air flights were running as per schedule to Doha. Social media was abuzz with stories of people stranded at airports in Saudi Arabia, while situation is likely to get grim in the UAE with the ban by UAE-based airlines effective from Tuesday. In a statement, Qatar Airways had said that it has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt until further notice.
“Qatar Airways flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been cancelled on June 5, 2017, and to the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt as of June 6, 2017, until further notice.
“Passengers holding a confirmed Qatar Airways ticket to any of the four countries between June 5, 2017 and July 6, 2017 are permitted to rebook their flights up to 30 days after their current confirmed departure date, one time free of charge. Passengers will also be permitted to refund the unused portion of their tickets booked for the above period once, free of charge. The service fee remains non-refundable,” the airline stated. Other regional airlines like Etihad, Emirates and flydubai also issued similar statements for their customers.