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Qatar Airways blames 252m-riyal loss on Gulf dispute

Dubai

QATAR Airways reported on Tuesday a 252 million-riyal (S$95 million) loss for the financial year ending March 31, citing a regional political dispute that has seen it banned from four Arab countries.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain have banned Qatar Airways since June 2017 as part of a dispute they have with the Doha government.

"This turbulent year has inevitably had an impact on our financial results," Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker said in a statement.

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The airline, which restated its year-earlier profit to 2.8 billion riyals, said it carried 29.2 million passengers in the year to March 31, down from 32 million a year earlier.

Qatar Airways lost access to 18 cities in the fallout from the dispute, including to popular destinations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It has also had to increase costs and operate longer flights on some routes to avoid the airspace of the four countries.

The airline said it had mitigated the impact of the dispute by launching flights to new destinations, increasing flights on existing routes and leasing aircraft to other airlines.

"New destinations come with launch costs and the necessity to establish market presence, which resulted in an overall net loss," the airline said.

Qatar Airways had warned in recent months that it would report a loss and since said it could make a loss again this year and potentially need to tap its owner, the government of Qatar, for a capital injection. REUTERS