Qatar Airways Group has seen its losses balloon as the continued blockade by neighbouring countries pushes up its costs.
The group reported a loss of £493.4 million for the year to 31 March, more than 10 times the £34.4 million it reported the previous year. The result came despite an increase in turnover from £9.3 billion to £10.6 billion.
Qatar is in dispute with Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, which have imposed airspace restrictions on Qatar Airways, forcing diversions and adding to congestion. The carrier said planned new destinations in west and central Africa and South America have been put on hold as a result.
However, the airline’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the carrier had launched 24 new destinations since the blockade started: “Of course, it has been a challenging year and while it is disappointing that we have registered a financial loss – attributable to the loss of mature routes, fuel costs and foreign exchange fluctuations – our adversaries have suffered far more than we have.
“If the intention of the illegal blockade was to damage Qatar Airways, precisely the opposite has happened. Our mix of wide and narrow body aircraft enabled us to launch new destinations and increase frequencies based on market demand.”
During the 12 months, Qatar Airways bought a 5% stake in China Southern, relaunched flights from Gatwick and added nine other destinations, including a daily service to Cardiff. The airline also marked the addition of its 250th aircraft last year and has more than 300 on order.