Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker has said the airline expects to post an annual loss in its current fiscal year, which ends in March 2018, as a direct result of the transport blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi-led states since June.

Al-Baker, however, said it is too early to predict how big the loss will be, according to a report by news agency Bloomberg.

MEED understands Qatar Airways lost almost 11 per cent of its network and 20 per cent of revenue due to the stoppage of flights to about 18 destinations.

This development marks a rapid reversal of fortune to the carrier, which reported a 22 per cent increase in net profit – to QR1.97bn ($541m) – for the fiscal year ending March 2017.

Prior to the blockade, the Qatari national carrier was seen as the main challenger to Dubai-based Emirates Airline, which had net profits decline by 70 per cent, to reach $670m, in its previous fiscal year, which also ended in March 2017.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and some of their allies imposed an airspace blockade on Qatar in the aftermath of the latest diplomatic row involving the GCC states.

The blockade forced Qatar Airways had to ground flights to a total of 18 destinations in the region, and utilise longer routes, primarily through Iran’s airspace, for its international flights.

Days after the blockade was imposed, Al-Baker said in an interview that they expect to underperform this year but will be looking to find new routes to mitigate the loss resulting from the stoppage of flights to existing destinations. “We have a robust plan B,” the CEO said in June.

Despite these challenges, Qatar Airways recently acquired a 9.61 per cent stake in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, making the Qatari carrier the third largest shareholder in the Southeast Asian carrier.

The purchase is estimated to have cost Qatar Airways $661m.

It is the fourth overseas investment by Qatar Airways. It previously acquired 20 per cent of British Airways-parent International Consolidated Airlines Group, 10 per cent of Chile-based LATAM Airlines, and 49 percent of Italy’s Meridiana.