Ouch: UK Bans Qatar Airways Flights Indefinitely

Filed Under: Qatar

This is bad news for Qatar Airways…

Qatar & other countries added to UK’s “red list”

The UK has just added Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar, and Somalia, to its “red list” for travel. From an aviation perspective the biggest implications here are for Qatar Airways, given how big the carrier’s network is in the UK.

As far as the logistics of this change go:

  • The travel ban will be implemented as of 4AM on Friday, March 19, 2021
  • British, Irish, and third-country nationals with residence rights who are arriving from or who have transited these countries in the past 10 days will have to quarantine in a government facility for 10 days; all others will be refused entry

Even those who have just transited Doha will be banned

There are around three dozen countries on the UK’s “red list,” which is primarily based on the risk of the importation of different strains of coronavirus. For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been on the list for several weeks.

What are the practical implications of Qatar Airways being on the “red list?”

  • The airline could still operate cargo flights between Qatar and the UK, as the ban is specific to passengers
  • The airline could operate flights from Qatar to the UK without passengers, and then operate flights from the UK to Qatar with passengers, since the ban is specifically on entry to the UK; this is what Emirates has done, as the airline has continued operating flights to the UK, but the UK-bound flights just don’t have any passengers onboard

Emirates has continued to fly to the UK despite the one-way ban

I don’t understand the logic of this

In general I totally get the desire for countries to protect themselves from variants of coronavirus, and I also understand that there’s no perfect solution. However, the UK’s “red list” approach seems particularly illogical to me:

  • A vast majority of Qatar Airways passengers are only briefly transiting in Doha, given that Qatar’s borders are closed, so is it really logical to ban passengers based on where they’ve briefly transited, rather than where they’ve spent a significant amount of time?
  • If the concern is slowing the spread of new coronavirus strains, then creating a rush for people to return to the UK ASAP before these rules go into effect seems counterproductive

I suppose in a way it’s fine if all of this isn’t very logical. For now the UK is strongly discouraging people from traveling, so perhaps the hope is that fewer people will travel if there are more hoops to jump through.

Bottom line

Qatar (and by connection, national carrier Qatar Airways) will be added to the UK’s “red list” for travel as of later this week, joining Gulf rival Emirates. With this, Qatar Airways will be banned from carrying passengers to the UK.

This is pretty major for Gulf airlines, given that they primarily transport passengers who are merely transiting, rather than being focused on O&D traffic.

What do you make of the UK’s “red list” concept, and the Gulf carriers being on it?

  1. It’s precisely because Qatar is a transit hub that the ban was put into place – people are using transfers to avoid the mandatory quarantine from red list countries by transiting a third country.

    Although this will be very awkward for the Qatar plane currently flying over my West London flat…

  2. So you’re telling me the Uk government is a bloated and ineffectual institution…. I would never!

  3. But the American ban isn’t stupid? And has also been in place for nearly a year You can’t enter the USA from UK or Europe even if you are transiting ( unless us citizen or allowed under the proclamation)

  4. Covid rates in the U.K. have declined dramatically and almost 36% of the population has the first vaccine. In some areas over 90% of over 60s are vaccinated.

  5. I can’t see that residents of Qatar can be a major source of mutant infection in the UK, the average O&D traffic on these flights is tiny. So it’s presumably a move aimed at disrupting transit traffic to the UK, cutting off another of the easy transit options reduces arrival options from large parts of the world. Perhaps there has been too many people coming in via Doha & lying about their origin.

    I imagine that Doha-Dublin will suddenly become a very busy route from where you are free to transit into the UK without passing immigration, as you are currently from Dubai (although Ireland is apparently soon to implement it’s own hotel quarantine which close that particular loophole)

  6. Qatar’s government has not banned flights from South Africa arriving in DOH and this led to QR ramping up their operations to South Africa and other African countries. Since a lot of these flights transit through DOH to the UK, there is a real worry about a possible spread of the South African variant. With the numbers of Covid cases falling in the UK, I can understand the UK government’s action.

  7. The passengers who have paid money and now travel agents are not responding what a bull shit. It’s v easy to ban but lot of people are suffering from this situation.awful situation.

  8. As a traveller I would be more afraid of UK than Qatar, looking the the different more contagious strains and the absolute inability to control movement, this ban serves to show how narrow minded this government is, like many of its policies. No wonder the Scots want out.

  9. Doesn’t the UK require API for incoming passengers? Does the API not include the whole itinerary showing where a passenger originated (now that most can only briefly transit DOH)?

  10. It’s not hard to understand why the UK has done this. And to be honest, you have always denied and minimized COVID. Your income depends on promoting travel, so you’re not exactly an objective, disinterested observer. Nothing new here.

    QR has flights to plenty of the COVID hot zones (throughout Africa). Tanzania, for example, where they have simply pretended that COVID isn’t real since last Spring (while quietly buying the bodies) — a perfect Trumpist paradise where there’s no mask-wearing, no social distancing, and where visitors (there are plenty of Europeans going there) who actually do take COVID precautions like wearing masks are harassed.

    The pandemic isn’t over. People need to stop acting as if it was.

  11. Even if the UK is “blind” in terms of the passenger information and worried about people slipping through then it would have been fairly easy to enforce a rule saying you need to retain both your itinerary / boarding passes from your origin and connecting point to match your PLF otherwise they’d contact your airline to confirm if they are suspicious.

    If they’re trying to limit the flow of passengers from these “red” locations (which I think it must be, hence banning Ethiopia as well) then this strategy isn’t going to be particularly effective – from Jo’burg there are plenty of options via Europe for example

  12. Ben, the UK is not currently just “strongly discouraging” travel. It is currently a criminal offence for the vast majority of Brits to travel in the vast majority of circumstances.

  13. The hotel how many people of the government got stakes in them virgin Airways are charging around 1100 pounds return to Pakistan where qat Airways it is around 600 pounds i am supposed to come back from Pakistan next Tuesday if I knew the government was going to pull this stunt i would not have travel i can’t to afford the hotel cost has British civilian I guess you will see me in prison f

  14. Flying from Edinburgh/Doha to Brisbane on 14/04/21 is this flight on ? I can’t get through to Qatar airways.

  15. Not sure why they just don’t do Australian/ New Zealand style shut down and call it a day. After a month or two, people can actually go to restaurants/ concerts/ shopping without masks and enjoy life. Just block everyone from leaving or entering already until everyone is fully vaccinated.

  16. Maybe a way to give British Airways a competitive advantage on the same routes? Would not be surprised. It’s all about money, at the very end.

  17. @JOJO – how is that even racist? why is everything a racist move nowadays?

    Also, on another note, It’s pretty significant to see that UK has banned Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Ethiopian Airlines disrupting the itineraries of thousands of transit passengers who will now have to rework and potentially hope for the ban to be lifted.

    @Sam G – I believe that’s not allowed anymore. If you had been through DOH at any point in the past 14 days, then you will be affected. Manipulating your travel documents and not declaring that you had passed through any of the banned destinations (DOH,MCT,ADD) is a criminal offense and can attract a fine too.

    @Linda – I believe your onward sector wouldn’t be affected, but you will have to keep your fingers crossed that by the time you return from Brisbane, the ban should’ve hopefully lifted.

  18. As someone who with in all likelihood caught COVID on a flight via Amsterdam or at the airport (with quarantine before and after travelling), I don’t think it’s illogical to ban people transitting Doha.

  19. t’s precisely because Qatar is a transit hub that the ban was put into place – people are using transfers to avoid the mandatory quarantine from red list countries by transiting a third country.

    However, you still can get around this. Fly from the Middle East to an European hub city like CDG or FRA and then fly to London. Have to switch airlines in the hub cities but travelers are still doing this. Need to shut everything down. These travelers are now flying to other parts of the world and not really quarantine. However, from the Middle East travelers are getting tests before flying.

  20. Interesting article title choice! Evidently no one would have clicked on it if it read “U.K. adds Qatar (the country) to it’s Red list”!

  21. @linda I’d watch Brisbane in general. They have a high number of positive cases from hotel quarantine. Problem is the FIFO workers from PNG. Anna as we know will protect QLD!
    If you have not already join the FB group Aussie expats returning home. Some useful info there.

  22. This is ludicrous.. a year later government decided to act on “pandemic “ and kill airline industry? Ethiopian airline flown all way true the pandemic , fully booked flights all true the summer of 2020 , and didn’t pose a risk , now they do?;)
    If UK government acted at the beginning adequately we wouldn’t be in this situation

  23. @Fil
    “Maybe a way to give British Airways a competitive advantage on the same routes”

    Except that Qatar owns a big chunk of IAG, of which BA is just a subsidiary.

    And the U.K. generally welcomes aviation competition from foreign airlines (this isn’t Australia, Canada or the US).

    So, no.

  24. I think that we need stronger bans against travel until the pandemic starts to approach zero. With the potential for the vaccines to stop the infection unless mutant strains appear 6 short months from now things could be quite different. Especially if everyone gets vaccinated. Small sacrifices now can make huge differences.

  25. It’s because Qatar has put UK, for very good reasons, on red list and requires quarantine in hotel. So BA can’t fly the route. Just “competition” in the long run. Qatar’s covid situation is under control which is more than can be said about the UK. People boarding aircrafts needs tests etc. And only in transit in airport with other tested. Either you shut the country for all in/out business or vacation or trust the tests.

  26. So… If Qatar now cancelling flights to UK where does this leave me as my return flight with tbrm is supposed to be on 9th April?

  27. UK bans Qatar Airways. No, incorrect. Currently this applies to ENGLAND. QR flights between DOHEDI are at this stage not planned to be affected.

  28. This really bad for passengers. I booked three tickets from UK now I’m here in Pakistan. the airline should drop us back in UK from straight flight

  29. Qatar had been reporting about 150 new cases of infection a day for many months. Things looked stable. The death rate was about one poor soul a day. Then all of a sudden case numbers rose to about 450 new infections a day. This has plateaued at that number for about a month now, so there is a different dynamic happening. Logically, the expectations with a vaccination program, that infection numbers would go down, and unfortunately that hasn’t happened in Qatar.

    And obviously they haven’t just thrown in the towel and given up. Something is happening there to increase that infection rate. And that’s something the UK would want to talk to them about.

    Ben, if you are reading this, you would be fascinated in why all the middle east airlines are so well situated. There is a sweet spot for an aircraft of about 4-7hours flying time in terms of fuel load/consumption. This puts middle east airlines in reach of a big proportion of the world’s population.

    I find statistics to be interesting… Maybe others do too.
    Anyway, the UK and Qatar both have long histories of negotiations, so let’s not predict their demise just yet.

  30. In Qatar, daily positive cases have been around 470 new infections a day for few weeks.. Yes that is relatively a high number of infections for a small country, but I believe the sudden move by The UK government is ridiculous. Some international students are returning to The UK via Doha, others (including me) are living in Doha and planned to come back to The UK by mid April. I hope this list gets updated every other week, and Qatar and Oman gets removed in the next cycle by mid April.

  31. Qatar is a hub and many infections have originated there in the last year . Hong Kong , Singapore and Australia all banned Qatar Airways for a few weeks at various times last year for bringing in positive cases . The passengers had negative tests at point of origin but by the time they arrived at destination they were positive . Many had long transit times in Qatar , like 12 hours when fares were low cost .
    Ben, you understand how the red list works, it is Qatar on the list NOT Qatar Airways , so anyone coming through or from Qatar is affected .
    It is similar to the USA banning entry of travellers from EU and UK

  32. To Kevin march 16th 1223
    I am from Australia,those type of lockdowns you advocate did nothing.
    Just destroyed small businesses and people’s mental state,and regardless of vaccination it makes no difference.Still require a covid test. And also Australia /New Zealand traffic is one way.New Zealanders can come in we cannot go there.
    This bloody panic merchants and mainstream media have destroyed the world with this crap,and to add insult to injury people reelect this political leaders again.
    If I could emigrate from this F.planet I would.

  33. My wife and son recently brought coronavirus while transiting in Doha when they flew from the Philippines to the USA on Qatar Airways. So this recent ban by UK makes sense: choke off a known entry point.

  34. for sake of argument…
    I flew into Tanzania transiting Addis Ababa with zero mask enforcement on an Ethiopian and departed Tanzania on Qatar airways transiting doha to the west coast. Qatar is picking up passengers that they know have a bogus covid tests and flying them maskless in q suites transiting doha. doesn’t it somewhat figure that it’s an open secret that Qatar, like Ethiopian, has relinquished any real responsibility? you may not see the logic, but to me having done this in the last few weeks, it seems pretty clear to me.

    Really, Australia’s approach did nothing? Australia has been pretty normal for a long time with things going on like normal as compared to the rest of the first world. I don’t understand what your problem is. be thankful for your island nation.

  35. I didn’t actually fly on an Ethiopian but rather on one of their airplanes. quite different.

  36. I think the real issue is keeping new COVID variants out as the vaccines may have less efficacy against these. New variants weren’t an issue in 2020. The U.K. has done a good job curtailing outwards travel and introducing inbound quarantine but there are both transit passengers and others who seek to get around the controls that are the key issues today.

    If you look at how long the Border queues are at Heathrow you can pretty much guarantee that you will get grilled about every aspect of your journey. One day recently the queue was 7 hours. That was when Border Force seemed to have 2 people on duty !!!

  37. @kevin @edi

    The lockdowns in Melbourne/VIC were essentially continuous for 8 months. Other states have been sporadically disrupted.

    It’s felt incredibly oppressive. States within Australia have become incredibly parochial and interstate travel has been banned or severely disrupted for the entire year until very recently.

    Some industry’s have been decimated but for the most part our economy, and our social freedoms have been returned to perhaps 75/80% of normal?!

    Rewards can be seen clearly, however the cost has been very high for some.
    Being locked into your country and not allowed to leave for over a year is quite soul destroying with 10s of thousands still stranded overseas unable to affordably return with flight and quarantine costing US$5,000-20,000 p/p

    Hopefully we can get some further balance back in another 6-9 months.

  38. @Experienced Traveller…when did Australia ban QR? I don’t believe this happened. Australia does not ban airlines for bringing in cases.

  39. The UK Government has made too many mistakes and bad decisions in the handling of Corona. It did not enforce negative test requirement for entry into UK until 8th January 2021!! Way too late to stop the spread into the UK!! Why ban Qatar now instead of 12 months ago?!!

  40. I’m not sure what effect it is going to have. I was originally flying from Joberg to London on emirates, they stopped flights from Dubai-London, rebooked with Qatar Airways, now that is cancelled. Now I’ve just rebooked with Lufthansa via Frankfurt. All it has done is allowed Lufthansa to charge more as there is less competition.

  41. David S not got a clue what he is talking about.. UK done a good job lol… obviously living in a box… thats enough for me to unsubscribe

  42. as mentioned earlier in the comments, this is about the immigration concession in south africa coming to an end on 31 March and no moves having been made to extend it. BA hasn’t flown direct to south africa in MONTHS so people have been flying via doha, addis, and istanbul to get around it. but mainly doha, since QR is a “oneworld” carrier.

    since, at the moment, it looks like south africa *isn’t* going to extend the concession, a lot of people are going to be stuck.

  43. International travel from Scotland, I am sure is banned until 17th May. In addition, entry to Bangkok is not permitted until October. We are due to travel to Bangkok on 12th May 2021.
    We also will not have completed our full vaccination regime by then.
    Have tried numerous times to sort this with Qatar Airlines.
    They want to charge us nearly £200 each to change flights, and to cancel they want to charge £100 each. They say they want us to wait until 5days before our flight is due to leave, its ludicrous. We want to cancel but we certainly do not want to give them an extra £200!

  44. I have just tried to make two dummy bookings on Qatar. One Joburg to London which flags as not operating and the other, London to Joburg which shows as operating and accepting bookings.
    I used the 25th March as the date. This qualifies the theory that they will fly in with cargo and no passengers, but will fly out with passengers.
    Wouldn’t book a return though, you might not get back !

  45. What’s being forgotten here by the Uk government is all the British ex pats who work in Qatar (not travelling into Qatar) and now can not go home for days off or leave to be with their family’s. My husband has been trapped out of the Uk for a year now through border closures from the Qatar side, job loss threats if he does leave and now he is fully vaccinated with both Pfizer vaccines we were on cloud nine that we would see each other again for days off, now they are on the red list it’s not happening and again we don’t know when we will see each other. This is the same situation with many ex pats out there, it’s sole destroying and mentally extremely hard.

  46. @Bumblebee
    What makes me even more frustrated and angry is that getting vaccinated will not give an exemption from hotel-quarantine. Is it like getting vaccinated for nothing !!
    Hope you reunite with your husband soon

  47. I don’t understand only transmitted airlines how could spread Corona as they have PCR report with them .And secondly uk do aswell test on airport also.No logic

  48. Qatar Airways should be banned lifetime. The inhumane conditions in its planes and specially inside the country demands the world to open its eyes.

  49. I was booked on a Qatar flight scheduled to land 2 hours after the ban started. It was cancelled by Qatar last minute and I managed to book on the same flight 24 hours earlier.

    The flight was completely full with no social distancing measures in place as Qatar strived to make as much money as possible.

    My journey originated in South Africa so I knew I was going into mandatory quarantine, but hundreds of passengers, who had been in close contact with us for 7 hours, simply strolled through normal immigration and out into the British public.

    I have no problem with quarantine if done properly but I don’t feel this system is it.

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