Business

Airfares from Doha likely to rise

More Indians expected to return home as situation is ‘volatile,’ says an analyst

The decision by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to isolate Qatar on charges of harbouring terrorists and to impose flying restrictions on the country, will lead to a sharp rise in airfares to India from Doha as more Indians are expected to head back home, said analysts.

“We expect more people to take the next available flight to come back home and not many people would like to go there at this point of time considering the volatile situation,” an analyst said. There are about 6.5 lakh Indians or people of Indian origin staying and working in Qatar, who are now expected to relocate.

“Loads in onward flights will be less while incoming flights will have more pressure,” an airline executive said.

As Emirates, Etihad Airways, fly Dubai, Air Arabia decided to suspend all flights operations to Doha from Tuesday onward, there would be more pressure on Indian carriers flying into Doha, analysts said.

Flights suspended

Qatar Airways on Tuesday suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt until further notice. “All customers 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,” the airline said in a statement.

Though its operations to India and elsewhere are expected to be normal, any further sanctions could jeopardise its prospects.

“Indian carriers will benefit at any loss to Qatar Airways,” another airline official said adding Qatar Airway’s rivals in West Asia will eye its passengers flying onward.

“The major casualty will be Qatar Airways which transports a large chunk of its passengers from India to onward destinations in the U.S. and Europe. Now fliers will be cautious to fly in that carrier due to the ongoing uncertainties,” said an analyst asking not to be named as he has business dealings with Qatar Airways.

Emirates preferred

More than 80% of the airline’s passengers originating from India fly through Doha to onward destinations. Out of all passengers from India taking a West Asian carrier, approximately 20% fly by Qatar Airways. A majority prefer Emirates followed by Etihad Airways through their hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively. Bahrain’s flag carrier Gulf Air is also expected to benefit.

So far, Indian carriers have been operating regular services to Doha. These include Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo.

Indigo, in a statement, said, “We are closely monitoring the situation. There are no changes in the current flight schedule. All necessary steps will be taken in the best interest of our passengers.” Jet Airways officials said their flights are operating as per schedule.

A pilot who operated a flight from Doha on Tuesday morning said that he noticed uneasiness among the citizens of Qatar as well as those working there.

“Everyone I spoke to was shocked. No one knows what is going to happen next. The decision to impose the sanction on Qatar came as a surprise,” he said, asking not to be named.

“We flew over the normal route. There were no airspace restrictions. But one never knows what is in store,” he said.

In case the situation escalates further and Qatar Airways comes under pressure, it is feared that thousands of cabin crew and hundreds of pilots from India working in that airline would be adversely impacted.

The uncertainty on Qatar’s economy and the finances of its flag carrier also has raised a question mark on Qatar Airways’ plans to start an airline in India.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 12:44:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/airfares-from-doha-likely-to-rise/article18732370.ece

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