KOCHI: Passengers to Doha, get ready for more flight delays and air fare hikes. The diplomatic face-off between five GCC nations and Qatar has reached the skies, taking its toll on the timings of Doha-bound flights from Kerala.
Officers of various airlines told Express that flights to Doha from Kerala will experience a delay of up to one hour in the wake of restrictions on using the air space of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE after they severed diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Air India Express officers said flights to Doha may be delayed by 40 minutes as the aircraft have to use the airspace of Pakistan and Iran to reach their destination. Air India Express operates a daily flight from Kozhikode to Doha and three weekly flights from Mangalore.
An attempt to strike a deal for using their air space is on as the curbs will hit passengers and create a ripple effect on the timing of some other flights as well. As more time means more fuel, airline companies operating flights to Doha from various destinations will be forced to pass on the burden to the passengers if there is no solution in sight, said an aviation expert.
Kochi-based booking agent Babu Paul said there was no immediate fare hike for Doha flights despite the restrictions. However, the scene may not be the same once the summer vacation begins by June end in West Asia, he said.
Qatar Airways sources said all its flights on Tuesday did not suffer any major delay. It operates around 25 flights from Kerala a week. However, there is a chance for delay for flights using unscheduled airspace in the coming days if the issue is not solved quickly, they said.
Qatar Airways, which has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt until further notice, issued an advisory on Tuesday. It said it had arranged three Oman Air chartered flights to take stranded passengers from Jeddah to Muscat from where they can continue their journey on the Qatar Airways connecting flight.
Meanwhile, money exchange counters in the airports have reportedly stopped the transaction of the Qatari Riyal for the time being following a sudden fluctuation in its value. A senior officer at Cochin International Airport said money exchange counters had received a communication in this regard from their head offices. This is expected to upset the passengers to and from Doha. The airport handles around 11 flights to Doha and over 30,000 passengers in a week.
KPCC chief writes to Prime Minister
KPCC president M M Hassan sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urging him to take adequate and immediate measures to ensure the safety of Indians living in Qatar, after five member countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council snapped ties with the kingdom.
Hassan also sought the intervention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in this regard. “Out of the 6.75 lakh Indian population in Qatar, Malayalees account for nearly 3 lakh. The Indian Embassy should be directed to ensure security for all Indians and extend necessary help,” Hassan wrote.
The KPCC president has also urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi to persuade the government to allay the fears of the Indians living in Qatar.