Arab carriers braced for Syrian sanctions

Abu Dhabi
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Middle Eastern carriers insist that they will continue to keep operating to Syria for as long as they can, but are resigned to the possibility of sanctions curbing their services.

Royal Jordanian Airlines would be among the hardest hit by a prohibition on Syrian operations, following the Arab League's decision to apply sanctions.

"We hope they don't close the airports or airspace," Royal Jordanian chief Hussein Dabbas told Flightglobal Pro at the Arab Air Carriers Organization conference in Abu Dhabi. "It's an important station. This would be a great concern."

The airline serves Damascus and Aleppo, but Dabbas said the proximity of Jordan would have greater ramifications than a simple loss of routes.

"It would close our northern border," he said, adding that Lebanese flights would also be affected. Services which normally take 45min could be forced to take a circuitous route lasting nearly 3h.

Etihad Airways is to continue to serve Damascus while it is able, but has put the connections under review.

State-owned Syrian Arab Airlines chief Ghaida Abdulatif backed the government's position but acknowledged that sanctions "would affect all of us" and "Arab people around the world".

The carrier has already been struggling to keep its network functioning under a US-imposed sanction regime.

Saudi Arabian Airlines chief Khalid Al-Molhem simply said the carrier would "maintain its schedule" to Syria, while budget operator Air Arabia has no intention of cutting Syrian routes until forced.

"As long as we're legally able to fly, we will," said chief executive Adel Ali. "I'm a businessman, not a politician."