A Qatar flight scheduled to fly to Doha on Sunday night was refused permission to depart Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) following the airline’s ongoing refusal to pay increased ground handling charges.
The move came after the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker last week was recently reported as stating that Qatar would re-consider flying to the Maldives if airport operator GMR insisted on a 51 percent increase in ground handling charges.
“If we or any other major player withdraws services because of these unwarranted and draconian measures, it will be the people of the Maldives who will lose out, affecting their livelihoods as they rely heavily on the tourism industry,” Al Baker said.
Minivan News reported yesterday that GMR had requested that Qatar pay cash for the day’s flights.
INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Minivan News today that the flight had been refused permission to depart due to the airline’s lack of payment of the revised charges.
The flight was delayed an hour and 20 minutes, he said, before GMR allowed it to depart “on compassionate grounds. There were women and children on board and passengers with international connections to make, who were being inconvenienced through no fault of their own,” he said.
Minivan News understands that GMR is currently in talks with several airlines regarding back payment of the increased charges. The company has said it will release a formal statement later in the week.
“MACL (Maldives Airport Company Limited) announced the revised charges in February 2010, after 14 years without increases,” Harrison said. “The charges are still below those for the same aircraft sizes at other airports in the region.”
MACL’s revised charges came into effect on 1 November 2010, Harrison explained. “They had an obligation to give six months notice, and they gave nine. We took over on 25 November. We included [the revised charges] as part of our business and revenue.”
Qatar’s Country Manager for the Maldives Sayed Mohammad Tariq said the matter was being dealt with at head office level by the airline’s senior management.
“Qatar’s CEO made his position very clear. We have nothing to say at station level,” he told Minivan News.
Morning and evening flights on Monday were cancelled. However Tariq said no decision had been made to cancel future flights which remained in the airline’s booking system.
The airline was today taking care of passengers affected by the payment dispute, he said. “We are taking care of all passengers and putting them on other flights.”