Is It Safe To Fly Qatar Airways?

As we first learned about on Monday, several countries have cut ties with Qatar, including nearby Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The impacts of this are massive across the board, including for travel on Qatar Airways, the country’s national airline.


Qatar Airways A380

Qatar Airways is a popular airline for people traveling between Europe and Asia/Australia, the US and India, etc., so most people who fly Qatar Airways will never actually visit Doha.

With that in mind, I’ve gotten many comments and questions from people who are wondering if it’s safe to fly Qatar Airways. I say “people” rather than “readers,” since this mostly seems to be people who are flying Qatar Airways soon and found my posts through Google, so don’t have much context on the situation.

On the surface the accusations that Saudi Arabia has levied against Qatar are huge, so it’s no surprise that someone not familiar with the country or airline would be concerned. Here’s part of Saudi Arabia’s statement explaining them cutting ties with Qatar, which includes accusations of Qatar backing terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (unrelated, but I feel like this statement could use some more punctuation):

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken this decisive decision as a result of grave violations being committed by the authorities in Doha over the past years in secret and public aiming at dividing internal Saudi ranks, instigating against the State, infringing on its sovereignty, adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region including the Muslim Brotherhood Group, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, promoting the ethics and plans of these groups through its media permanently, supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain, financing, adopting and sheltering extremists who seek to undermine the stability and unity of the homeland at home and abroad, and using the media that seek to fuel the strife internally.

I don’t think people unfamiliar with Qatar are unjustified in being concerned. If I just randomly booked a flight from Europe to Australia on Qatar Airways and knew nothing about the country or (state owned) airline, and then found out that other countries cut ties with them due to accusations of terrorist links, I’d probably be worried too.


Doha from above

So… is it safe to fly Qatar Airways?

The short answer is absolutely. I would have zero qualms flying Qatar Airways.

I’ll give a slightly longer answer, though I don’t want to make it political, since there are strong opinions on both sides here. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have heard from friends in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and feel I have a fairly good grasp on the situation. However, this situation is so nuanced that I’m sure I’m barely scratching the surface. To summarize the situation as it pertains to flying Qatar Airways as non-politically as possible:

  • The current situation is still very much developing, so perhaps the biggest concern should be the uncertainty of this all, not in terms of direct safety, but rather in terms of the political implications
  • Qatar imports a lot of their food, etc., from Saudi Arabia, so that’s one of the biggest immediate impacts, though Qatar also has other (more expensive) ways of getting food
  • Based on my interpretation, as of now the biggest immediate risk is some sort of a non-violent political move
  • It’s also entirely possible that both sides will hold firm, and the status quo could continue for a while

Qatar Airways has long had a good safety record, and the current situation shouldn’t in any way impact safety. What should you be aware of if flying Qatar Airways?

  • Given that this situation is still developing, there’s a chance more countries will take sides here, and that could lead to more flights being canceled
  • There may be some slight delays or cancelations, due to flights having to reroute to avoid certain airspace; for example, Qatar Airways’ flight from Doha to Sao Paulo has routed via Athens the past couple of days, adding a couple of hours to the journey
  • In the event you do misconnect, Doha is a perfectly nice city to be stuck in, even during this situation


I’d gladly move into the Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha

Bottom line

I realize the above is an oversimplification, but it’s tough to address this issue without getting political, and that never ends well here. However, I think almost anyone who has a grasp of the situation would agree that it’s still perfectly safe to fly Qatar Airways. I’d feel just as comfortable flying them today as I would have last week.

Since it’s a question I’ve also received, I wouldn’t be worried about any implications at immigration in other countries. In other words, given the situation, you still shouldn’t be subjected to additional screening at immigration because you’re connecting through Qatar. Countries know that Qatar Airways is a huge global airline, and most people connecting there are choosing the airline for their great fares and onboard service.

I’m watching carefully to see how this situation develops, but you should absolutely feel at ease flying Qatar Airways.

Anyone disagree and think it’s not safe to fly Qatar Airways?

Comments

  1. I just arrived a few hours ago (ATL-DOH direct) and I’ve had no problem concerning the airline or immigration. However, the “vibe” does seem a bit different than past trips. I’m going out on the town tonight so I’ll let you know.

  2. Some of us (living in Doha) don’t have much choice! None of us here have any doubts or worries flying with them.
    We just hope this whole thing ends sooner or later as there could be some big problems if it continues for say six months or longer.
    Right now life here is normal, shelves full of food etc but also most of us will be out of the country in a couple of weeks for summer vacations.

  3. I feel absolutely safe flying with Qatar Airways. My only issue is that I have bought tickets out from Dubai and now I am not sure whether I will be able to use them. Don’t know what to do.

  4. Nice article! You focus on your expertise and avoiding sensitive issue. Great development from you! Really appreciate it Ben!

  5. This isn’t a safety issue with the airline, its a political issue with other countries. The airline itself is fine. People are negatively affected traveling to or transiting via the countries who took action against Qatar. Otherwise QR is rerouting flights into different flight patterns and doing business as usual.

  6. I know nothing of airport/airline supply chains, but I imagine that closing the only land border could impact parts and supplies directly related to air travel. Having a maintenance delay or issue on a 16hr over-ocean flight would not be pleasant.

  7. Qatar Airways is absolutely fine. If you want more current info and updates, the Qatar Airways forum on Flyertalk has lots of good advise. If your ticket starts and ends in countries other than Saudi, UAE, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain it is pretty much business as usual. The flights are pretty much all routed through a corridor out over the Arabian Gulf into Iran and on to their destinations. If you need to re route feel free to call Qatar Airways ONLY if you bought your ticket through them. Otherwise, contact the travel agency that sold you the ticket as they are your one and ONLY point of contact.

  8. I’d agree with Bman on supply issues. If there is a shortage of parts, might they cut corners or just assume that everything would be ok?

    My concern about Qatar has always been the company culture. As has been discussed extensively on here, the employees work under a tyrannical CEO and are always afraid of violating rules that might cost them their jobs. When workers are so rigidly controlled, they may have troubling thinking “outside the box” when an emergency arises. They also may be hesitant to do anything that might cause a delay or diversion. There was a Qatar 777 that was damaged on takeoff from MIA not long ago and apparently the four pilots all knew it but didn’t say anything lest they get in trouble.

  9. I agree that it’s safe to fly Qatar as such, however also any deviations from routines add to risks. I had a QR flight booked, but cancelled it as I got full refund. With all due respect to facilities at DOH, I don’t want to be stucked there. Do you know where the kerosene is coming from? Also, the congested Iranian airspace does not comfort me. The Iranian ATC is working under a lot of pressure with more than usual QTR call signs, so good luck with that.

  10. My only concern about Qatar Airways is that they are canceling my flight to Cairo…called American Airlines immediately and snagged a seat on Etihad’s flight instead but have no idea about the Etihad business class product and lounges…

  11. I’ll be flying Qatar in less than 2 weeks from EU to Asia via DOH and I’m not too concerned. Of course, that may change depending on what happens in the coming weeks. But for now, I’m looking forward to my biz flights.

    As for being political in a travel blog, I would advice not to neuter yourself completely, Ben. I know there are folks who may not want to hear your viewpoint – especially if they run counter to theirs – but we live in an inter-connected world where politics is part of our lives. So is food, culture, fashion, business and other aspects of life.

    Be yourself and express yourself. Don’t give in to the trolls – since they have nothing better to do that harass honest opinions.

  12. I dont see how this is a safety issue. This is all politics. Unless essential parts or POL come out of/through one of the affected nations, I dont see how this affects safety. At most you might see some flights to the affected countries canceled, and time tables may be modified to account for non-standard routing. I do wonder if Qatar Airways will simply add (more?) code shares or charters to the affected airports.

  13. I would be a little worried that their could be a repeat of the US Navy accidentally shooting down the Iranian Airbus over the Persian Gulf in the last century.

    Whenever countries and their militaries are so close in proximity and the tensions so high miscalculations can be catastrophic.

  14. “I don’t think people unfamiliar with Qatar are unjustified in being concerned.”
    WOW. Triple negative statement. Is there a simpler way of expressing what you were trying to say?

  15. @Peter Here’s a thought, maybe, i dont know, take a look at some of the (hundreds) of Etihad flight trip reports & lounge reviews here on the website? Then you might have some insight on their product, which is phenomenal btw.

  16. While air travel on major international airline such as Qatar is extremely safe, every time we travel we participate in a probability game. As remote as the outcome of a severely adverse outcome are, I would not fly Qatar until the dispute among fellow GCC members and other Arab countries with Qatar is resolved. When an organization the size of Qatar is put under stress, the opportunity for error increases.

    The above being said, I am advised by my contacts in the American Embassy (who do not have a dog in this fight) that the government of Qatar has feces all over its hands with respect to support / sympathy some tacit, some financial for very shady groups. This is driven by a young Emir who rules Qatar who wants to assert his independence and his country’s sovereignty. Thus, think about when you travel on Qatar airways, think about who actually benefits from cash one pays to Qatar Airways.

    I have traveled Qatar Airways frequently in Business and First Class. It is a wonderful airline. However, I will not be traveling on this career until is dispute with Saudi and other GCC countries is resolved and the Emir disavows support / sympathy for groups that support terrorism.

  17. The airline is surely safe to fly. I think the bigger issue is the airport security, where the focus seems to be on herding people through as quickly as possible with little apparent scrutiny

  18. Bman1132 – You’ll probably kick yourself, but you do realise that Qatar airways could fly in the parts they need? They are a company dedicated to moving people and goods around the world by plane after all!

    In fact, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the predominate way they receive their aviation parts anyway. Trucking them in from Saudi Arabia by road doesn’t seem particularly logical?

  19. @CP

    The phrase you quoted is not a “triple negative.” The only negative used is “I don’t think.” The words, “unjustified” and “unfamiliar” are just words. They are neither positive nor negative. The sentence originally written is absolutely perfect in its syntax. You should know English better before criticizing others.

  20. Qatar airways is one of my favorite international airlines and I will not think so much before booking. I made a mistake of booking Fin Air instead of Qatar when I flew from Asia to Europe a month back. The service in Fin Air was just horrible!

  21. @wright You are correct that Qatar has feces all over its hands. But Saudi Arabia has even more. And the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt are not far behind. Its a bit like a gang of criminals deciding to expel one of their members.

  22. It’s amazing to see benlucky morph into a strategic thinker on ME affairs in this new series of posts when just two days ago, he probably would have struggled to properly name the ruler of Qatar.

    The way you sound in these posts is completely ridiculous to the people that read you regularly and have a measure of your “expertise.”

  23. When I went through Doha on Monday, transit from Bangkok-Cairo, fewer than 10 people in the Al Safwa lounge. At the time I assumed it was because of Ramadan but even so it was unusually quiet for 1300-1400.
    Someone made the point about security at Doha: and it’s true that there is no security screening of passengers arriving for a transit stop.
    I feel safe on Qatar and will continue to fly with them if they have great prices ( sadly they do not offer cheap deals ex Bangkok).

  24. For all these countries to take the actions they have, it’s not just some little turmoil. I would not be surprised if they were true for these countries to take these actions. In addition Qatar already does things like harbor terrorists like Khalid Mashal.

    Why support a terror state?

  25. I agree with DiscountEconomyFlyer above.

    With all due respect Lucky, you don’t know what kind of turmoil, invasions, wars, or other bad political drama this could entail or unfold on Qatar if things get really serious there.

    On top of that Qatar does support terror. For seven (or is it eight) Muslim states to just kick out Qatar out of an alliance, shut them off from the world, and make some very damning accusations, they must have some pretty damning evidence that is not public. Several neighboring states don’t just cut ties with a country, and level serious accusations just “because.” There is more to this story, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    I would caution people booking flights on Qatar Airways.

  26. As someone who happens to hold a passport from one of the countries that tied links with Qatar I would say I would avoid Qatar Airways if possible due to just complications of checking in with my passport. But if I already had booked a ticket before that incident, unless it was transferring to my country (flights got cancelled) I wouldn’t reroute. I’d just go ahead and take it.

    Understandably, journeys will take a bit longer but oh well…there’s only so much you can do.

    However I also had avoided flying Qatar Airways since the Arab Spring because of the allegations. I have seen some of them in action and know them to be truth. I was involved in my country’s revolution and watching Qatar do what it did brought me a lot of grief. I wouldn’t have wanted to fund that again.

  27. Most airlines avoid Iraqi airspace these days due to safety concerns, so does Qatar for the most part. But since the ban was put in place, their Amman to Doha flight is now routing through Iraq, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that their safety is not impacted by the ban.

  28. Most of the routings now go over Iran. In case of emergency you might land in Iran rather than Saudi Arabia. Not sure what is worse. Intrestingly the Israeli airline arkia has partnership with qatar airways. Passemgers fly to Larnaca and from there connect to qatar airways to Australia far east in one routing. This arrangement is still in place.

  29. Completely safe. I just flew Moscow – Doha – Dallas and had a wonderful experience.
    As an EP, I even had the full flight attendant staff come by and say hello and mid-flight give a “welcome onboard” cake (first for me)

  30. I had flew with qatar two days ago, that’s totaly safe and fine.
    Saudi Arabia pays lot to omit his oposite ideas. He is himself a terrorist country. Just look around and remark natinonallity of people who makes terrorism actions like 08/11 in NY CITY, mostly Saudi Arabian!

  31. I’m flying Qatar Melbourne Au to Dublin in August…Should I be worried about delays as I have to be there by 2 Aug??

  32. I’ve flown Qatar a few times, and I’ve enjoyed doing so!

    I would say that the whole quarrel is a political one and that people shouldn’t worry. However, potential customers should probably allow more time when flying into Europe via Qatar as security at the moment is enhanced pretty much everywhere!

  33. Flying from Dhaka Bangladesh to Berlin Germany on 23rd of July. Is everything okay now in Qatar Airways? A little nervous since I don’t want to be the real life Tom Hank of The Terminal. Any advice from someone who recently took a transit via Doha would be highly appreciated.

  34. There are four main ways to ascertain whether an airline is safe. In this order;
    1). Pilot training, testing and dismissal
    2). Airline procedures & self regulation
    3). Maintenance personnel training
    4). Level of Government ownership

    Very few of the above posts address these issues. I’m not in any way saying that Qatar is unsafe. What I am saying is that the real test of an airlines safety comes when things go wrong, both on the ground and in the air.

  35. Any updates on this? Thinking of booking a trip to Arusha that flies through DOH on Qatar. Best prices, shortest flight. From the US.

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