LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker said on Monday rising tensions in the Middle East were not affecting the airline, adding geopolitical strains were nothing it hadn’t seen before.
Recent attacks on tankers in Gulf waters have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military presence over perceived Iranian threats.
“We have always been used to such trumped up tensions in our region. Qatar Airways at the moment is not affected and I don’t think it will be affected either,” al-Baker told Reuters in an interview at the Paris Airshow.
“Cool minds will prevail ... business in our region will be as usual.”
Tensions between Washington and Tehran heightened after the United States last year quit a 2015 international nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Any new conflict could further complicate the efforts of airlines to keep routes running in a region where airspace is already congested, in part due to ongoing conflicts which have made it unsafe to fly over some countries.
Many airlines use Iranian airspace, including Qatar Airways which has been banned from flying over neighboring Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain since mid-2017 due to a dispute between those Gulf states and Qatar.
Asked if he was making contingency plans for a war, al-Baker said: “Every airline has contingency plans,” adding the plans put in place when neighboring states boycotted Qatar had been successful.
“Qatar Airways has a very robust plan B for any eventualities, including if there is a conflict in our region.”
Reporting by Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Mark Potter