August 9, 2017 / 12:57 PM / in 2 months

UPDATE 1-Qatar Airways says evaluating air routes opened by boycotting countries

(Adds UAE aviation authority comment)

DOHA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Qatar Airways is evaluating whether it will use air routes which media reports said were opened this week by countries embroiled in a political dispute with Qatar, the airline’s chief executive said on Wednesday.

Qatari-owned aircraft are blocked from using the airspace of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as part of economic sanctions enforced by the four countries in June.

Qatar Airways is looking at “the flexibility and benefit” of one “very short route” while another route off the Egyptian coast was “useless” to the airline, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said at a Doha press conference.

Al-Baker did not say where the short route was or when the airline would decide if it would use the routes.

Qatari-owned aircraft have been given access to airspace over international waters managed by the UAE, said Saif Mohammed al-Suwaidi, the director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), in a statement on Wednesday.

The United Nation’s aviation agency said on Aug. 8 Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to open some of its airspace to Qatari aircraft, according to media reports.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE severed ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants.

Qatar has denied the allegations.

The airspace closures have forced Qatar Airways to fly longer, more expensive routes, prompting Doha to call for the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization to intervene. (Reporting by Tom Finn; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Jane Merriman, Greg Mahlich)

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