Saudia airline will fly from Riyadh to Doha later Monday, with services from Jeddah scheduled to start at a later date.
Air travel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia resumed Monday, according to the countries’ airlines, a major milestone as former rivals normalize relations under a landmark deal signed the first week of January.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia and its allies, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a blockade on Qatar that included the closure of the country’s airspace on the grounds that it was working for support “terrorism” and was too close to Iran.
Qatar has always denied the charges.
The quartet agreed to lift restrictions at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit last week in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula, after diplomacy from the outgoing administration of US President Donald Trump .
The first commercial flight between Qatar and the kingdom in three and a half years, a Qatar Airways service to Riyadh, took off from Doha at 10:45 GMT and was scheduled to land at 12:10 GMT, according to the airline’s schedule.
– Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) January 11, 2021
Jamal Elshayyal of Al Jazeera said the passengers were family members who had previously been separated from loved ones due to the blockade.
“Not only is this seen as a positive step following the declaration of reconciliation that was signed in Al-Ula last week between Qatar and the former blockade countries, but the resumption of flights between destinations is something that is extremely well received, ”he said. Doha Hamad International Airport.
He called the first flight from Doha to Riyadh a “very historic moment in what would normally be considered a trivial flight between two GCC countries” because of the implications it has after “three years of a seemingly bitter conflict. now being a bit far away ”.
Saudia Airlines will fly from Riyadh to Doha, departing the kingdom at 13:40 GMT according to its online schedule, with services from Jeddah scheduled to start at a later date.
The New York Times reported that Qatar was paying more than $ 100 million a year to use Iranian airspace to bypass Saudi Arabia.
“We are also looking forward to reconnecting with our trading and freight partners in Saudi Arabia. [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], as well as the country’s main airports, ”Qatar Airways said on Twitter.
“We are very happy with the positive outcome of the GCC summit and the decision to reopen all borders with Qatar,” said airline CEO Akbar al-Baker.
Open land border
On Saturday, the Qataris began entering Saudi Arabia through the Salwa border post.
Some 68 cars entered Saudi Arabia via the crossing on Saturday, while 20 more left for Qatar, a Saudi customs official said.
“The level crossing is in full operation. We welcome the Qatari citizens, ”the head of customs at the Salwa crossing point, Ali al-Aklabi, told Saudi state television Al-Ekhbariya.
Qatar, meanwhile, said arrivals through its border crossing with Saudi Arabia would be subject to coronavirus precautions. All arrivals must be able to present a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours before travel.
All arrivals will also be subject to hotel quarantine for a week, the Qatar government communications office said in a statement.