Select Page

QATAR AIRWAYS: Remember when Australian women were removed from a flight and subject to forced intimate searches?

QATAR AIRWAYS: Remember when Australian women were removed from a flight and subject to forced intimate searches?

There is an update to this two-and-a-half-year-old incident. But first, think back to October 2020. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic a group of Australian women were taken off Sydney-bound Qatar Airways Flight QR908. The women were then invasively strip-searched at Hamad International Airport.


A baby found abandoned in a garbage bin at the airport was the reason given for the intimate searches. The women were to be ‘inspected’ to see if they had given birth to the infant. The women were not told why they were taken from the plane and did not consent to their physical examination. None of the staff examining them spoke English, which terrified the passengers.

Remember that this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. These passengers returned to Sydney and mandated quarantine in New South Wales. Authorities provided support after being alerted to the incident and the Australian Federal Police were alerted.

The international incident goes to court

The forced searches of the women were an international incident. The Qatari Government released a statement expressing regret for the distress caused from the way the searches were conducted. Five Australian women are suing Qatar Airways over the forced searches. The court heard that the women were held at gunpoint after a newborn baby was found abandoned in a plastic bag.

a group of people sitting in an airplane
Qatar A380 Business cabin [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Qatari obstruction

Christopher Ward SC, barrister for the women told the Federal Court that Qatari authorities have not provided access to documents about the incident. Pointing the finger at MATAR the security company operating within the airport.

Diplomatic channels have not worked to obtain the documents. The women’s lawyers have asked the court to allow them to serve papers on the security company via email – an unorthodox approach. The judge did not permit this and was told the prosecution to proceed without the documents or to list MATAR as a separate defendant in the case.

Qatar Civil Aviation Authority and Qatar Airways are being sued by the women aged from 33 to 75 for damages for unlawful physical contact and mental health impacts from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Airline

Qatar Airways is caught between a rock and a hard place. It had to comply with the instructions of the Aviation Authority. The airline does not dispute the women’s claims and has supported the case going to the Australian court system.

a bar in a plane
Qatar Airways A380 onboard lounge [Qatar Airways]

2PAXfly Takeout

From the baby that survived to the infringement of 18 female passengers’ rights, this is a very unfortunate case. This is where human rights values of a Western democracy come into stark contrast with the authoritarian and historically misogynist attitudes of an emirate and ex-British protectorate.

Qatar Airways is now suffering from the reputational damage of that conflict, even though it had little power to control it.

Qantas and Qatar Airways are members of the OneWorld alliance, and Qatar partners domestically with Virgin Australia.

1 Comment

  1. John ARDSLEY

    I wouldn’t be so quick to single out these type of regimes and systems because western democracy does this on a daily basis to hundreds of thousands of citizens and residents in the U.S. on the basis of being arrested for a crime for which they haven’t been convicted and that can be as simple as not paying traffic tickets. Conviction is no excuse for this either. It’s a form of rape for the government to force people to undress. It’s disgusting. X-rays are sufficient for security. There is no excuse for any modern society to support this. It violates a fundamental [edit] belief that only your spouse, parents, and doctors with your consent see your nakedness and not the government.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Previously . . .

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates about 2PAXfly.

Reviews, deals, offers, and most of all opinion will be in your inbox.

We won't spam you, and we won't share your details with others.

Newsletter Regularity

You have Successfully Subscribed!