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Qatar wins airport award again despite invasive check scandal

written by Adam Thorn | June 17, 2022

An internal photo of Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar (Arne Müseler/Wikicommons)

Qatar’s Hamad Airport has again been named the world’s best by Skytrax — despite seemingly refusing to compensate Australian women who were subject to an invasive search in 2020.

In October that year, women from as many as 10 flights out of Doha’s Hamad International Airport were told to leave their aircraft before being escorted to ambulances for a non-consensual genital check, supposedly carried out as staff tried to find the mother of a baby abandoned at the airport.

The decision to re-award the prestige title to Hamad comes despite Human Rights Watch telling Australian Aviation the previous win in 2021 was “ridiculous”.

Skytrax announced the decision to give the title to Qatar’s biggest airport again on Thursday evening at the Passenger Terminal Expo in Paris.

The business’ chief executive, Edward Plaisted, said, “We are delighted to announce that Hamad International Airport has been voted the World’s Best Airport for 2022, repeating their success of 2021. Our congratulations go to the management, staff, and stakeholders at Hamad International Airport who have all contributed to this achievement for the second year running.

“As the Official Airport Partner for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we wish Hamad International Airport every success in helping to host this major event.”

Australian Aviation reported in November last year that 7 of the 13 Australian women that were removed from their flights are seeking compensation from Qatari authorities, including the government, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, and state-owned Qatar Airways.

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According to the lawyer for the women, Damian Sturzaker of Marque Lawyers, his clients are taking legal action after being traumatised by the event.

“The group of women have suffered enormous distress on the evening concerned, now just over a year ago, and they continue to suffer distress, ill effects, and trauma as a result of what occurred,” he said.

The women are seeking to receive a formal apology for the incident as well as compensation and protection for future passengers travelling through the airport. The amount of compensation being sought is not known.

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The women hope the legal action will “send a message to Qatari authorities that you can’t treat women … in this manner”, Sturzaker said.

However, in February 2022, Qatar’s foreign minister refused to answer questions from the Sydney Morning Herald as to whether the women should be compensated for their ordeal.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani reportedly said the matter had been settled.

“As the government, we are taking full responsibility for this action, and we are penalising the people who were responsible for such a slip, which was a big mistake, and we apologised to the Australian government and to the victims of that incident,” he said.

“Regarding the legal case that they are pursuing, by the ladies, that is a legal challenge, I can’t comment, unfortunately.

“It was a single incident that happened and nothing happened after that, and we are assuring the safety and security of women and men who are travelling through Qatar Airways.”

One of the clients involved in the claim anonymously told the BBC that she was “subjected to the most horrifically invasive physical exam”.

“I was certain that I was either going to be killed by one of the many men that had a gun, or that my husband on the plane was going to be killed,” she said in a statement from her lawyer.

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