Qatar Airways: First Flight Over Saudi Arabia Airspace Since Blockade

Qatar Airways: First Flight Over Saudi Arabia Airspace Since Blockade

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Qatar Airways Flew Its First Flight Over Saudi Arabian Airspace Since the 2017 Boycott Began, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed trade and diplomatic links with Qatar. Earlier this week, the four countries agreed to resume diplomatic and trade links, although until today, Qatar Airways was still avoiding Saudi Arabian airspace, waiting for the relevant NOTAM (notice to airmen) aviation advisory to be issued. Note that the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt haven't yet issued permission for Qatar Airways to use their respective airspace, although those should come soon. There also isn't yet an indication of when Qatar will again operate flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Qatar Airways announced that the first scheduled flight transiting Saudi airspace was QR 1365, from Doha DOH to Johannesburg JNB.

Qatar Airways: First Flight Over Saudi Arabia Airspace Since Blockade

Here's the route it took through Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia Opens Airspace to Qatar Airways

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Qatar Routes Can Resume More Direct, Shorter Routes

The over three year blockade resulted not only in Qatar not being able to fly its many usual routes to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but longer, more circuitous routes to its other destinations due to having to go around Saudi airspace.

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How Did the Blockade Get Resolved Now?

The original blockade, led by Saudi Arabia, was over allegations that Qatar supported terrorist organizations and alleged that Qatar had violated a 2014 agreement with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. Saudi Arabia was particularly critical of Al Jazeera, a major news organization owned by the Qatari government, and Qatar's relationship with Iran. Qatar, for its part, acknowledged its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, but denied that it had aided militant groups such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State or ISIL.

Ultimately, what seems to have pushed Saudi Arabia to take a more conciliatory stance is Biden's winning the presidential election, since the Biden administration is likely to be less friendly towards the kingdom than the Trump administration has been. Biden has been critical about Saudi Arabia's human rights record and has threatened to suspend arms sales over the war with Yemen. Kuwait has been particularly instrumental in helping negotiate the resolution of the blockade, even though Qatar hasn't fulfilled the original 13 demands made of it back in 2017, one of which was the shutdown of Al Jazeera.

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