We don’t discuss geopolitics often on LiveFromALounge.com, but some moves do directly impact the world of travel. In June 2017, a group of Middle-Eastern countries broke relations with Qatar, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, not just closing down their consular ties with Qatar, but also imposed a blockade on Qatar registered vehicles and air vessels using their land and air borders. Now, Saudi Arabia opens border with Qatar again.
The blockade resulted in Qatar Airways not being able to use the Saudi Arabian airspace, which is the direct routing to fly West (towards Europe and the USA, for instance). This blockade resulted in Qatar Airways flights having to spend extra time and fuel to pass a narrow corridor over Iran/Iraq to access the West. Not just that, Qatar Airways was no longer able to offer flights to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and the respective carriers of these nations, such as Emirates, Etihad and Saudia also withdrew their flights from Qatar.
Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has referred to this blockade as being illegal and has asked for this to be withdrawn ever since. And it is finally happening.
In a move that seemingly came out of nowhere, Kuwait seems to have brokered peace amongst Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi Arabia has moved to allow for the opening of borders with Qatar once again. This was confirmed by a statement on the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA. It reads,
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to reopen air traffic, land and sea border crossings starting from Monday evening, Kuwait’s top diplomat announced. On the eve of the 41st GCC Summit, to be attended by Arabian Gulf leaders in Al-Ula Governorate, Saudi Arabia, His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah made phone calls with Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, of Qatar, and Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Mohammad Bin Salman Salman, of Saudi Arabia, said Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah in a KTV broadcast.
This was also confirmed by the QNA, the Qatari News Agency.
Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait announced that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar reached an agreement to open airspace as well as land and sea border starting tonight. #QNA
— Qatar News Agency (@QNAEnglish) January 4, 2021
As Saudi Arabia opens border with Qatar, the Abu Samra land crossing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is now open and immigration officers are in place, as per AlJazeera. However, as of about 10 AM IST, Qatar Airways aircraft were still not seen to route over Saudi Arabia and were using the narrow Persian Gulf corridor they were using for a long time. (Image courtesy FlightRadar24)
This could be caused due to many reasons, such as Qatar Airways waiting for the formal notification in this regard. I did not spot a NOTAM (notice to airmen) about Saudi Arabia opening their airspace to Qatar registered aircraft (A7-) yet.
Update: On Thursday, January 7, 2021, Qatar Airways flights finally started to overfly over the KSA airspace. The first flight using the airspace after the blockade got overflew to Johannesburg in South Africa on January 7, 2021.
This was also confirmed by Qatar Airways on Twitter.
This evening #QatarAirways began to reroute some flights through Saudi airspace with the first scheduled flight expected to be QR 1365, Doha to Johannesburg at 20.45 this evening, 7 January. pic.twitter.com/wmU7Qq6Mwd
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) January 7, 2021
This should be great news for the region, and Qatar Airways specifically, has been bleeding due to this extra routing they have had to take for about 3.5 years now. Especially after the damage to airline finances that the CoVid-19 pandemic caused, this should help them save at least some money as they rebuild their network.
Let us hope this move by Saudi Arabia is now followed by UAE, Bahrain and Egypt opening up their airspace to Qatar shortly as they have committed.
In a Kuwait brokered peace move, Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its blockade against Qatar, which will allow Qatar Airways to use the Saudi Arabian airspace shortly. This move will cut down the travel time for Qatar Airways passengers and save the airline precious fuel since it had to take a more extended, more indirect routing, for years now.
What do you think of the move of Saudi Arabia to open borders with Qatar again?
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