I recently traveled to Beijing, China for the 5th International Workshop on Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics (IWACIII 2017). I usually check for cheap flights on Dohop. Once I find a cheap flight, I book it from the airline’s website and usually, the ticket becomes cheaper.

This time round, the cheapest flight was from Qatar Airways. On Dohop, the return ticket from Windhoek to Beijing was around US$700, but on the Qatar Airways website, it was US$550. That was an awesome deal as there was only one stop (in Doha).

As we flew from Windhoek, I thought our flight will go over Zambia DRC, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, Ethiopia, Red Sea, parts of Saudi Arabia before landing at Hamad International Airport in Doha. But to my surprise, we started taking a more easterly direction.

We flew over Lusaka (Zambia), northern Malawi, Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania), over the Indian Ocean waters off the Kenyan coast, Mogadishu (Somalia), off the coast of Yemen, and Oman. From there, we completely avoided United Arab Emirates as we went into the Persian Gulf and finally landed in Doha. On my way back, we took the same path as illustrated in the map below.

Qatar Airways flight from Doha, Qatar to Windhoek avoiding Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates

I eventually found out that as part of the embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain on Qatar, Qatar Airways cannot use the airspace of those four Arab countries. Qatar Airways flights to Africa are now taking longer than usual and, I think, this has forced Qatar Airways to reduce the prices.

Almost all the seats on our flight to Windhoek were full. Although I could only see Qatar Airways planes at Hamad International Airport, one thing was clear; the small Qatar is resilient. They have shown Saudi Arabia and company that they can surviving the blockage. One wonders, what Saudi Arabia and company will do now.