Qatar row: Alternative arrangements made for Singaporeans returning from umrah

A Qatar Airways plane preparing to land at the Manila International Airport in Pasay City, south of Manila, in the Philippines, on June 7, 2017.
A Qatar Airways plane preparing to land at the Manila International Airport in Pasay City, south of Manila, in the Philippines, on June 7, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - Close to 300 Singaporeans who are in Mecca for umrah, or minor pilgrimage, are scheduled to return from their trip on alternative airlines, after Qatar Airways' license was revoked by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (June 6).

Speaking to The Straits Times on Thursday (June 8), Mr Mustafa Jumat, vice president of the Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore (AMTAS), which manages haj and umrah services in Singapore, said that most Singaporeans have settled their return flight details.

They also did not experience any major disruptions to their travel plans.

"Qatar Airways assisted them, and directed them to alternative airlines," said Mr Jumat. Some of these alternative airlines include Malaysia Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Emirates.

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Although the schedules of Singaporeans in Mecca are largely unaffected, their return flight routes will differ.

They will have stopovers at Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Abu Dhabi depending on the alternative airline scheduled.

One group is expected to arrive in Singapore this Sunday (June 11) on Malaysia Airlines.

On Tuesday, Qatar Airways had its licenses revoked by Saudi Arabia, and was also ordered to close its offices within 48 hours.

This comes amid a diplomatic rift between Qatar and some of the most powerful states in the Arab world, who are accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism across the region.

On its website, Qatar Airways indicated that they will be suspending all flights to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt "until further notice."

Separately, the two Etihad Airways' flights scheduled to fly from Singapore to the UAE will continue as scheduled.

Local travel agencies contacted also said that they were not affected by the rift.

Should the ban continue, Mr Jumat said that alternative travel plans may be required for groups scheduled to go on pilgrimages in October and November this year.

"We are currently in talks with Qatar Airlines, but no one knows how it will pan out," he said, adding that AMTAS will be closely monitoring the situation.

When contacted, Emirates and Qatar Airways said travellers should refer to their websites for update information.