World News

Saudi Arabia revokes Qatar Airways' licences

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday revoked the licences of Qatar Airways and ordered its offices to be closed within 48 hours, a day after banning all Qatari planes from landing at its airports.

The Saudi government’s move follows coordinated action on Monday by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut links with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) also said in a statement any licenses granted to Qatar Airways employees would also be withdrawn.

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 U.K.-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