UAE, Bahrain Say Qatari Jets Buzzing Their Commercial Flights

Dubai is home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel

Attendees watch a flying display by the Al Fursan aerobatic team jets during the 15th Dubai Air Show at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017
Natalie Naccache/Bloomberg

Authorities in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are again accusing Qatari military jets of interfering with their flights, the latest accusations amid the Arab countries’ boycott of Doha over a diplomatic dispute.

Qatar, which has complained about Emirati military aircraft violating its airspace, declined to comment on Tuesday when reached by The Associated Press.

Bahrain’s state-run news agency said late Monday that Qatari fighter jets passed underneath an Emirati plane with a tail number corresponding to an aircraft flown by the ruling family of Fujairah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates.

The report said the incident took place over international waters near Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

“The two fighters flew deliberately under a UAE Airbus 320 ... en route from Fujairah to Rome, prompting Bahrain’s Air Surveillance to intervene and take the necessary measures to ensure aviation safety,” the report said.

“The Emirati A320 jet then flew at a higher altitude of 35,000 feet to avoid the Qatari fighters, which consistently violate international conventions and jeopardize the movement of civil aviation in the region,” it added.

Data from FlightRadar24, a flight-tracking website, shows that an Airbus A320 associated with Fujairah’s ruling family flew Monday en route to Rome and did climb above its 35,000-foot cruising altitude near Bahrain. However, that data did not offer an explanation for the gain in altitude.

It wasn’t clear who was on board the flight. Authorities in Fujairah, on the UAE’s eastern coast, and Bahrain did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Separately, the UAE’s civil aviation authority issued a statement over the country’s state-run WAM news agency, alleging that “two Qatari fighter jets dangerously approached two UAE-registered commercial airplanes while flying” in Bahrain’s airspace. It wasn’t clear if one of those craft was the Fujairah to Rome flight as the statement did not identify the aircraft involved.

Emirates, the Dubai-based long-haul carrier, declined to comment. FlyDubai, a low-cost airline, said its planes weren’t involved. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Sharjah-based AirArabia did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority.

The state-run Qatar News Agency issued a statement from civil aviation authorities late Monday denying the Emirati claims and calling it an attempt to cover up previous violations of Qatari airspace.

The dispute comes as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut off Qatar’s land, sea and air routes on June 5 over its alleged support of extremists and close ties with Iran.

Qatar has long denied funding extremists, though it supports Islamist opposition movements that are considered terrorist groups by other countries in the region. Doha restored full diplomatic ties during the crisis with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore natural gas field.

The diplomatic crisis has hurt Qatar Airways, Doha’s long-haul carrier that competes with Emirates and Etihad.

Qatar had complained to the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization about the boycotting nations cutting off its air routes, forcing the carrier to take longer flights through Iran and Turkey. Its regional feeder flights in Saudi Arabia and the UAE also have been cut off. Qatar has separately complained about Emirati military aircraft violating its airspace.

Widening the Gulf dispute to include civilian aviation and airspace could hurt Emirati airlines already stung by President Donald Trump’s travel bans, as well as last year’s ban on laptops in airplane cabins, which has been lifted.

Dubai is home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel.