Unbelievable: How Gulf Air Planes Are Flying To Doha

Filed Under: Other Airlines

The Gulf blockade, which has isolated Qatar from neighboring countries, has been going on since June 2017. This has all kinds of political and economic implications, and has also significantly impacted Qatar Airways, the national airline of the country. It has meant that Qatar Airways has cut all flights to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE (and airlines from those countries have cut flights to Qatar).

Not only that, but this blockade has also led to airspace restrictions that apply even when not flying directly to one of those countries. Just look at the map of any Qatar Airways flight you take and you’ll notice the detours.

Well, at the moment Gulf Air, the national airline of Bahrain, is operating some flights to Qatar. The way they’re going about this sure is… inefficient.

The Gulf Cup Is Going On In Qatar

The Gulf Cup is held every two years, and is a soccer competition between the eight members of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation.

What makes this kind of awkward is that the Gulf Cup is currently being held in Qatar. Despite the blockade, countries in the region are putting aside their political differences to play soccer.

So how are teams and fans being flown to Qatar, given the blockade?

Gulf Air Operating Charter Flights To Doha

In the past couple of days Gulf Air operated nearly a dozen charter flights to Doha and back, not only to transport the team, but also for fans to be able to cheer them on.

These flights should have been very quick. The direct distance between Bahrain and Doha is just 92 miles, so the flights should have maybe taken 20 minutes.

But that’s not how Gulf Air operated these flights. Rather they operated 80 minute, 550 mile flights. The flights took 4x as long as they needed to, and covered over 5x as much distance as they needed to (give or take).

Gulf Air operated all of their flights via Kuwait airspace, and then the planes made 180 degree turns. Here’s the map for one of the flights via FlightAware, though all special charter flights more or less followed the same path.

This applied in both directions (from Bahrain to Doha, and from Doha to Bahrain).

Why Would Gulf Air Operate These Routes?

Why on earth would they operate a route like this?

@AlexInAir says that Qatar gave Gulf Air permission to operate the flights “direct” using their airspace. He suggests it’s because on principle Bahrain don’t want to “open” the airspace between the two countries, so they’re instead flying via Kuwait. Kuwait has relations with Qatar, and also with the countries blocking Qatar.

In other words, there are regular flights from Bahrain to Kuwait, and regular flights from Kuwait to Doha. So this way they can operate the flight using “normal” airspace.

Gulf Air hasn’t provided an explanation one way or another. So is there another possible explanation beyond pride?

I’d say it’s also possible that there was simply some bureaucracy involved here. Even with Qatar having allegedly given permission to use the airspace, due to the blockade this is airspace that hasn’t been used in a couple of years. It could be that at this point they’re simply not set up to use the airspace, to hand over ATC communications, etc.

One thing is for sure — this is incredibly wasteful. My hope is that this comes down to stupid bureaucracy rather than pride…

  1. Let’s hope that this idiotic blockade stops, so that everyone can prosper more and argue less about silly shit that hardly anyone cares about.

  2. Saudi’s king is a moron, MBS is a murderer, and country manufactures terrorists day in and day out.

    If any country should be blockade, its Saudi Arabia.

  3. I understand the Saudi team flew direct through Qatar airspace but the UAE team did similar to Bahrain.

    The fact that the teams came to Qatar along with the Emir being invited to Saudi for the GCC Sumit this week is a sign of thawing tensions. There have been lots of rumours in Doha of the blockade ending soon.

  4. Recently there was an internet outrage over Qatar Airways stopping in Maastricht then flying 24 miles to Liege, which is environmentally wasteful. That flight happened twice, as far as I recall. This route is even MORE wasteful, and is ongoing. Add to this all of the extra miles flown for the past 2.5 years due to the Qatar issue, and we could have taken X number of cars off the road! Where is the outrage? Where is the pressure to solve this issue for the good of our planet?

    No, better us all sacrifice travel and meat, and pay significantly more for ‘clean energy’ than to deal with the real environmental issues.

  5. @Chris, Saudi’s king is ill with Alzheimer, so he can’t remember anything his son does. The person who makes MBS do this is MBZ

  6. @Walt Parman, They’re wasting fuel, emitting more harmful gases, wasting money, destroying the vehicles’ quality, and other bad stuff

  7. I believe this is actually less complicated than you think, Ben. The country of Qatar and all its airspace lies directly under Bahrain FIR, and because of the blockade Bahrain initially closed all airways through its FIR into Qatar. Pretty quickly after the blockade started, however, they designated several specific airways through Bahrain FIR that can be used to reach Qatar. That’s what this is about – they have to fly up to Kuwait to get on one of these airways. At least that’s what it seems like to me.

  8. @ Sad State of Ouir County, MBS was gonna invade Qatar and Trump approved(even tho they have an airbase there), but they didn’t because the strong ties with Turkey(being they have a strong army and base in Qatar) and Rex Tillerson said he doesn’t approve because they have an airbase there and other reasons

  9. So you’re telling me that in order to avoid flying into Qatari airspace directly, Gulf Air is flying from Bahrain to Kuwaiti FIR, then turning around to cross BAHRAINI FIR while flying even closer to Bahrain before crossing into Qatari FIR from no other then Bahraini FIR

  10. I think the blockade has to do more with Qatar-Israel relationship than “terrorists”.
    If it was a question of terrorism, then Saudi Arabia would be the first candidate for a blockade.

  11. Convoluted routings and unnecessary time in the air? Obviously this is against everything the points and miles community stand for.

  12. Esteban says “I think the blockade has to do more with Qatar-Israel relationship than “terrorists””

    Nope. In fact, Israeli relations with most Arab countries (not Persian) are improving. This blockade has everything to do with Iran – Qatar has been a bit too cozy with the Mullahs (the Shiite ones, that is).

  13. i don’t think Lucky (or any of us on this website) are really in a position to throw stones on the subject of “wasteful” air travel !

  14. “My hope is that this comes down to stupid bureaucracy rather than pride…”

    Clearly, politics isn’t your strong point! Haha

  15. Put the blame on regulations (and stop blaming US politics for this, you thick morons) and vagaries of international relationships. It’s the same as flights to Israel having to go in special air corridors. When there’s world peace and a single race, religion, and system of government, then you shall have your 20-minute flight.

  16. I cant understand how Qatar Airways able to cross Bahrain airspace which surrounding Qatar? any explanation? is it possible as long as you keep low altitude till you cross?

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