An airbridge out of the blockade
In June a group of Gulf states under the leadership of Saudi Arabia sought to isolate Qatar economically and politically. The emirate was unimpressed; the national airline has continued to pursue its expansion plans. The forthcoming Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (30 August–4 September), is causing some rifts in the blockade.
On 5 June Saudi Arabia joined with the UAE and Bahrain and cut diplomatic ties and all transport links with Qatar, and withdrew Qatar Airways’ rights to fly over their countries. Securing enough food for its 3 million inhabitants to survive became the peninsular state’s biggest problem. Almost half of the emirate’s imports used to come across its only land border, connecting it to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula.
There is no sign of empty shelves or a state of emergency in the country, however. Qatar has managed to fulfil the rather demanding requirements of its people, with logistics support from allies such as Oman, Iran and Turkey, and mediation by Kuwait. The neutral position adopted by some of its partners, such as the EU and the USA, has also been very helpful, of course.
One of the elements of the successful strategy was the establishment of a national milk-production industry, with Qatar Airways actively involved.
Flying Holstein cows in from Europe
Early in July the carrier imported 330 Holstein cows from Europe – as the vanguard of several herds of cows that will encompass no less that 4,000 bovines. Coming from Europe, the USA and Australia, they are due to land in the country over the coming two months. Qatar Airways has previously already built a strong reputation for the transport of thoroughbred racehorses.
Qatar Airways’ introduction in June of services to and from London Heathrow (with Airbus A330Fs), Dublin, Prague, Sohar, Nice, Kiev, Skopje and Canberra represented something akin to ‘business as usual’. Over and above this, the carrier is also launching long-haul services to Sarajevo in autumn and Chiang Mai in winter.
The airline even mentioned the possibility of taking a financial stake in American Airlines, a major critic of the Middle Eastern aviation business model – but that development has been nipped in the bud.
In other news, the airline teamed up with DHL Global Forwarding to heavylift 80 t of oil and gas industry equipment from China to Brazil.
Photo: Qatar Airways Cargo