Qatar Airways: Saudi airspace reopens after 3 years of restrictions
Effective immediately, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have reopened land, sea, and air borders. As well as allowing them to re-open some ‘domestic’ middle eastern routes, this will mean that Qatar no longer has to avoid Saudi airspace, cutting significant flight times on a variety of routings.
This follows the recent opening of airspace between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
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Back in 2017 the Gulf Blockade which closed land air and sea borders with Qatar was introduced by the states of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The blockade was a financial impost on Qatar Airways (and the Qatari government) as it necessitated increased mileage and flying time to avoid those countries airspace.
Qatar was accused of funding terrorism, which was the excuse for the embargo, although some believe it was because the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera media network applied its critical reporting to its Arabic neighbours.
Good news for Qatar
Saudi Arabia has dropped its restrictions, but no agreements have been reached with other countries. Given Saudi is the largest country involved, the lifting of restrictions by them is the most significant, allowing Qatar to return some routes to ‘normal’.
Qatar has kept flying throughout the pandemic including continuing to provide a service between Europe and Australia. This agreement with Saudi will allow Qatar to return to shorter, more efficient routing, which should assist with the perverted economics of flying as few as 30 passengers between Abu Dhabi and Australia.
Why the change in heart?
Well, we don’t know, but there have been various threats and demands including compensation (US$5 billion), getting international bodies involved like the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and even talks between soon to be ex-President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jarad Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (you know, the one that orders the death of journalists) to try to resolve this matter.
Middle east politics are immensely complex, so lets just be happy at this softening of restrictions.
Qatar Airways are one of my favourite airlines, so I’m happy that they will be able to return to flying more efficiently in these troubled pandemic times where