Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

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Qatar Airways has vowed not to repeat an “extreme incident” in which a number of Australian women were subjected to gynaecological examinations.

What the airline describes as a “one-off” happened in 2020 when 13 Australian women had boarded a Qatar Airways plane from Doha to Sydney.

Five of the women, who say they were taken off the flight at gunpoint by guards and searched without consent, are suing the airline in the Federal Court of Australia.

The incident happened while authorities at Hamad International Airport were looking for the mother of a newborn baby abandoned in a bin.

Qatar Airways did not respond to their complaints and offered no apology, the women said.

The company’s senior vice president, Matt Raos, told an Australian Senate inquiry there would be no repeat of the examinations.

They were a “one-off incident, a very extreme incident”, he said.

Mr Raos added: “We’ve had nothing like it previously in our history and we’re completely committed to ensuring nothing like this ever happens again.”

He declined to discuss the incident because of the ongoing court case, commenting: “The outcome of that Federal Court case is something that we will honour and abide.”

Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Matt Raos. Pic: AP
Image:
Qatar Airways senior vice president Matt Raos. Pic: AP

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Three weeks ago Australia’s transport minister, Catherine King, said the examinations were a factor in her decision in July to refuse the Qatari government-owned airline additional flights to Australia.

Mr Raos said Qatar was “surprised and shocked” that Australia had rejected its application for additional services to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made in August 2022.

The five women taking legal action wrote to Ms King through their lawyer in June, urging that Qatar Airways not be allowed to double its number of Australian services from the current 28 flights per week.

“It is our strong belief that Qatar Airways is not fit to carry passengers around the globe let alone to major Australian airports,” they wrote.

“When you are considering Qatar Airways’ bid for extra landing rights, we beg you to consider its insensitive and irresponsible treatment of us and its failure to ensure the safety and dignity of its passengers.”

Qatar senior vice president Fathi Atti told the inquiry the airline heard of the decision through the media on 10 July and did not receive official notification from the Australian government until 10 days later.

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