(Adds Bahrain cancels licence)
By Katie Paul and Saeed Azhar
RIYADH/DUBAI, June 6 Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on
Tuesday revoked the licences of Qatar Airways and ordered its
offices to be closed within 48 hours, as the two Gulf Arab
states severed transport links with Doha in a diplomatic row.
The Saudi government's move follows coordinated action on
Monday by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and
Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar, accusing the country of
supporting terrorism. Doha dismisses the charge.
Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
said in a statement any licences granted to Qatar Airways
employees would also be withdrawn.
A few hours later Bahrain announced it had cancelled
licences granted to Qatar Airways and had also asked the airline
to close its offices within 48 hours, the official Bahrain News
Analysts said the fallout from cancelled flights resulting
from Saudi Arabia's action would cost Qatar Airways millions of
dollars in lost revenue.
"The revoking of the licence suggests that this spat will be
a long and drawn out. You don't revoke licences if you expect a
resolution quickly," Saj Ahmad, the Britain-based chief analyst
at StrategicAero Research, said.
"The real challenge is what Qatar can do to mitigate (the
losses), and right now, it doesn't look like it is in a position
to do anything."
Saudi Arabia's aviation authority said customers seeking
adjustments on tickets to or from Qatar should communicate with
the company by phone or through its website.
Dozens of people crowded into the Qatar Airways office in
central Riyadh on Tuesday morning, asking for refunds or to be
re-booked on flights with other airlines.
"We’re trying to get refunds, but the problem is the
logistics. Now if you want to re-book, how are you supposed to
deal with the hotel booking, the rental car, the visa?" Ganas
al-Ganas, a Saudi national planning a trip to Europe, said.
The suspension of flights comes three weeks before the start
of the Eid holiday week, a popular time for travel in the Gulf.
Qatar Airways said on its website it had arranged three
chartered Oman Air flights to transport passengers from Jeddah
to Muscat on Tuesday. A connecting Qatar Airways flight would
then take them onwards to Doha.
The airline also cancelled flights to Bahrain, Egypt and the
United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, the day after it had suspended
flights to Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Katie Paul in Riyadh and Saeed Azhar in Dubai;
Editing by Jane Merriman and Edmund Blair)