Flagging numbers: Qatar Airways staff hold a Qatari flag in front of an Airbus A350-1000 at Hamad. Picture4: REUTERS
Flagging numbers: Qatar Airways staff hold a Qatari flag in front of an Airbus A350-1000 at Hamad. Picture4: REUTERS

Dubai — Qatar’s Hamad International Airport may be struggling with plummeting passenger numbers amid a travel and trade ban imposed by rival Arab states, but the embargo has spurred air-freight volumes to record highs.

The closure of the nation’s only land border with Saudi Arabia has led to an airlift-style operation to safeguard the supply of goods and produce spanning fresh milk to industrial gear previously transported by truck, Badr Mohammed al-Meer, the airport’s chief operating officer, said in an interview.

Freight volumes at the hub jumped 10% to 514,000 tonnes in the first quarter, according to the latest available figures. At the same time the passenger tally slid 11% to 8.73-million and the number of aircraft take-offs and landings tumbled 17% to 52,200.

Qatar Airways has scrapped flights to 19 cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt due to curbs imposed by the countries on June 5 2017 over their gas-rich neighbour’s alleged funding of terrorism and links to Iran. The curbs also mean carriers including Dubai-based Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, EgyptAir and Saudi Arabian Airlines no longer serve Hamad.

Prior to the embargo the airport had forecast a 20% jump in passenger traffic for 2017 versus 2015 levels.

Bloomberg

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