Qatar Airways has transferred some of its flights from Dubai International Airport to Oman's Sohar Airport following the breakdown in relations which has seen four Arab nations cut diplomatic, economic and transport ties with Doha.
The carrier will start flying to Sohar three times a week from August 8, making Sohar, in northern Oman, Qatar Airways' second busiest hub after Hamad International Airport in Doha.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all transport links with Qatar on June 5. Saudi Arabia closed Qatar's only land border and all four countries banned Qatari planes from entering their airspace, and barred Qatari nationals from passing through their airports.
Qatar Airways currently flies to more than 150 destinations worldwide but was forced to halt flights to 18 Middle Eastern destinations last month when the crisis erupted. Before the Gulf ban, Qatar Airways used UAE airports for a third of its regional operations, according to aviation experts.
"Sohar is close to the UAE, just 30 minutes flying time, it makes sense to move the operations from Dubai to Sohar. That means we are going to re-route all our flights that were previously operating in Dubai to Sohar, including the air freight," a Qatar Airways source told The National.
“Qatar Airways will give Sohar a major boost once it re-routes all its UAE operations there. At the moment, only two airlines operate in Sohar and both are low cost carriers,” Said Al Kindi, a retired senior air traffic controller, said.
Oman-based Salam Air and Sharjah’s Air Arabia are the only airlines that operate from Sohar airport, which opened in September last year. Oman Air abandoned flights three months ago due to lack of demand after only six months of operation there.
Economists say that non-aviation business activities will also receive a boost in the Omani northern industrial city, which is home to a free trade zone port, refinery and a methanol plant, among other industries.
“Qatar Airways may well use Sohar port to link with its air freight cargo for shipment through its port for both exports and imports. That will generate a lot of revenues for local businesses and create employment in the area,” said Ahmed Al Habsi, an economic analyst at Capital Investment Company.
Qatar Airways also announced on Monday that it will begin flights to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, from August 21.
The launch of the new routes to Sohar and Prague were brought forward, said the airline's Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker.
The new routes will be operated by the Airbus A320, a narrow body jet that was previously used for Qatar Airways' Middle East routes.
The boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt was imposed because the quartet accuse Qatar of supporting and funding terrorism and working with regional rival Iran - charges which Doha vehemently denies.