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Qatar Airways suffers 'substantial loss'

Qatar's flag carrier lost access to 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain due to blockade imposed last year.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker

Qatar Airways has experienced a "substantial" loss in its last financial year, as a direct consequence of the regional dispute that ended up banning the airline, according to its chief executive Akbar al-Baker.

The Qatari flag carrier lost access to 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain when those countries imposed a blockade on the country last June, accusing Qatar of supporting "terrorism". Qatar denies the charges.

"We have increased our operating costs," al-Baker said at the Eurasia Airshow in Antalya, Turkey, on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"We had to also take a hit on revenues, so we don't think that our results for the last financial year will be very good.

"I don't want to say the size of the loss but it was substantial."

The airspace ban means for many flights to the west and south of the Gulf, the airline has to fly longer routes, which requires more fuel and increases costs.

In March 2018, al-Baker said in an interview that Qatar Airways may need to call on its state owners for extra funds should the blockade continue.

"Not for the foreseeable future, but if it continues long term our shareholders will have to put additional equity into the company," he declared.

However, despite the challenge that the blockade has represented for the airlines, the air carrier has sought new alternatives, and expanded its travel network with new international partnerships.

On April 10, Qatar Airways announced an agreement with JetBlue Airways in the United States that extended to JetSuiteX accelerating its semi-private air service on the US West Coast.

On February 20, Qatar Airways became Air Italy's new shareholder, with the aim of making Air Italy "a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy".

In terms of investments, on April 17, Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's minister of economy and commerce, said the company invested $92bn in the purchase of as many as 332 American aircraft.

Qatar Airways owns stakes in several airlines including Cathay Pacific and British Airways-parent International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG).

Al-Baker also said that when Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the airline would have a passenger and cargo network of nearly 250 destinations.

It currently flies to more than 150 destinations, according to its website. 

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