Qatar seeks to stimulate air traffic amid Gulf boycott

Sanctions-hit Qatar has announced a programme to allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries as it seeks to encourage air transport.

Qatar has moved to stimulate air transport to the nation by allowing visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries amid a two-month boycott imposed on the Gulf state by its neighbours.

Visitors from those countries will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa. Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.

Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the visa decision places Qatar as the “most open country in the region”.

“This important initiative from the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Tourism Authority will provide an opportunity to welcome even more visitors, from even more countries, to experience the many exciting attractions that await them,” he added.

Depending on the nationality of the visitor, the waiver will either be valid for 180 days and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar, or it will be valid for 30 days and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of applying for an extension for an additional 30 days.

The move comes days after reports that Qatar Airways can now access new “temporary or contingency” flight corridors over international waters in the Gulf controlled by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

However, Qatari-owned aircraft are still blocked from using the airspace of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The four countries severed ties with Qatar in June.

Akbar al-Baker told reporters that Qatar Airways was looking at "the flexibility and benefit" of one "very short route" that has been opened up, but said another route off the Egyptian coast was "useless" to the airline.

Qatar Airways recently launched a direct service to Dublin, Nice and Skopje, with routes to Kiev and Prague starting before the end of August 2017. Airlineroute today revealed that the airline is also set to expand its Doha-Manila frequency and has opened reservation for its new service on Doha-Sarajevo.

Read more on how aviation is being caught up in the fracas between Qatar and its neighbours in the latest issue of Routes News magazine. 

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