The Washington Post writes:

If not for a gesture of goodwill from Bahrain, whose airspace practically encircles Qatar, the airline would have to cease operations.

But is it really a gesture of good will?

Bahrain's territorial airspace (i.e. the area above Bahrain and its territorial waters) doesn't surround Qatar. Its FIR (flight information region), along with these of UAE and Saudi Arabia, does surround Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE can surely ban Qatar's planes from entering their territorial airspace. So can Bahrain - but can it prevent them from entering their FIR?

P.S. An example of entering another country's FIR uninvited - Jordan's FIR covers the west bank. Israeli flights (and military flights) routinely fly there, and did so even before the 1994 peace agreement.


It seems not that Bahrain can ban flights. But Bahrain provides air traffic services in that region. Without the Bahrain FIR, civillian carriers won't fly. They depend on air traffic services to provide safe and reliable services.

Passenger aircraft can fly without ATC (they won't fall out of the sky), but it won't. The risks of collision are just too great. This means that Bahrain can direct Qatari aircraft to use particular corridors and routes, and aircraft flying in that region have to obey.

This lead to Qatar requesting permission to establish its own FIR in 2021. This has been approved in principle, but the details of the FIR have yet to be decided on. The particular crisis that lead to this air blockade seems to have at least partly resolved, with Qatari flights now flying over Baharani airspace, as they did before 2017

Military aircraft routinely fly without ATC, the risk/benefit calculations for military are quite different.

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