Qatar Airways is set to report a "very large loss" for its financial year ending later this month, group chief executive Akbar Al Baker confirmed today.
Speaking at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin, Al Baker said that a blockade imposed by Qatar's neighbours was "putting a lot of financial strain" on the Oneworld carrier.
Qatar Airways has, he notes, been required to fly longer routes and use widebodies on routes previously operated with narrowbodies in order to carry additional fuel. This results in lower load factors and higher operational costs, both direct and fixed.
But although he expects it will announce a large loss for the current financial year, Al Baker stresses that the airline is "financially robust".
He adds: "Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of Chapter 11 [US bankruptcy protection] so we have to persevere and find additional financial streams and investments, in order to continue our expansion even under the loss."
At the "right time", he warns, Qatar Airways will "claim for our losses" resulting from a blockade he considers illegal.
Al Baker says that by continuing to expand in difficult times, the airline has been "challenging all odds", as "adversaries thought we would shrink, we would park airplanes".
He argues that the blockade has in fact had "a positive effect" as "it made us determined to keep our march ahead and make so much waves in the aviation industry".
Of the cuts that Qatar Airways has had to make to its network as a result of the blockade, Al Baker says: "These destinations are not the whole world. There are so many other nice places in the world. We have not lost anything.
"As a matter of fact, it is their loss, to lose such an important airline but at the same time to lose what we always thought was a family member."
He adds: "We kept out country supplied, and we became prouder as a nation."