This week, the Qatari government announced it would be temporarily banning entry to Qatar from 14 countries in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The ban is a preventative measure and has not been given an end date. Qatar Airways is heavily affected as are several Indian carriers.
In an attempt to prevent any more cases of coronavirus in Qatar, the government has put heavy travel restrictions in place. Travelers from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Thailand are no longer being granted entry.
The government has said that anyone on a connecting flight from these countries which stops-over in Doha will still be allowed to wait in transit. However, they will not be allowed to enter the country. The restrictions apply to anyone traveling from the listed countries and are not restricted to nationals from each country.
In the official statement regarding the restrictions, the government said, “This step comes in line with the State of Qatar’s efforts to take all necessary preventive measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus.” It also urges Qatari citizens to “avoid all but essential travel at this time”.
The Qatari government had previously restricted flights to Italy, one of the worst-hit countries. Currently, Qatar has just 15 reported cases.
The affected airlines
Qatar Airways is obviously one of the airlines which will be most affected by this new set of restrictions. The airline operates over 100 flights a week to destinations in India alone. The airline released its own statement on Monday saying it was canceling all current stopover bookings. It is also allowing passengers to change bookings just three days before traveling or opt for a refund.
The other airlines which will be heavily impacted by the Qatari government’s decision are the Indian carriers. IndiGo has said it will cancel all flights to Qatar until at least the 17th of March. The airline operates daily flights from six Indian cities to Doha.
In response to the new restrictions, Pakistan International Airlines has suspended all flights to Doha until at least the 31st of March. It has also suspended flights to China and Italy. Pakistan has seven confirmed cases of the disease.
Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines has also canceled its flights between Manilla and Doha until the 15th of March following the Qatari government’s announcement. The airline has confirmed it will be allowing passengers to rebook onto another flight before the 30th of June.
The impact on airlines
Coronavirus claimed its first aviation victim last week when budget-carrier Flybe said the impact of coronavirus pushed the airline into administration. But it may not be the last.
Large carriers such as Qatar Airways or Emirates may be financially impacted but with the support of their governments, they are unlikely to be seriously devastated by the virus. The same cannot be said for other, smaller airlines.
GoAir was due to launch its first flight to Doha from Mumbai on the 19th of March. This is now extremely unlikely. The airline’s other new routes are also to the Middle East region and may well be impacted.
While the larger airlines are buckling down to weather the storm, smaller carriers are praying for the storm’s end before their finances run out. Kuwait has also placed travel restrictions on passengers from India and six other nations and Saudi Arabia is following suit. It is likely that more restrictions will be announced soon so more airlines should be prepared to be impacted.