Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister has confirmed that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain, will be restoring full diplomatic relations with Qatar. This involves the reopening of airspace, land, and sea borders.
From a travel perspective, this means that flights between Qatar and the 4 countries involved in the blockade can resume, while Qatar Airways flights no longer have to avoid the airspace of neighboring countries.
Previously, flights travelling to and from Qatar were forced to divert through Iranian airspace. With immediate effect, this is revoked and Qatar flights may take more direct routes, shaving significant time from flight durations.
The Gulf Blockade Finally Ends.
Indeed, Qatar Airways have already launched flights to Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, while other destinations will be relaunched soon. The opening up of airspace will also impact many passengers who have been cut off from traveling directly to Qatar, such as the Dubai – Doha route.
The coming months will see flight networks begin to look similar to early 2017, before the blockade. This will give passengers more options while flying and boosting aviation in the region as a whole. We may also see fares fall as Qatar Airways and other airlines return to the markets.
For several years now Qatar and several of its neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been in dispute, primarily over Qatar’s close ties with Iran. The boycott began in 2017 effectively isolating Qatar from its neighbours, damaging diplomacy, commerce, and forcing flight diversions. However last week Saudi and the UAE came to an agreement with Qatar, resulting in the immediate removal of the ban on Qatar air traffic travelling through Emirati and Saudi Airspace. Egypt and Bahrain will also ease their blockade. This comes only a week after Saudi and Israel drew up a new peace treaty.
This is great news, not only for travel but also for trade and commerce. Saudi having previously been one of Qatar’s biggest markets. This does not, of course, mean that everyone is instantly back to being friends. As UAE Foreign Ministry official Khalid Abdullah Belhou has said, ‘the federation of seven sheikhdoms is continuing talks to end other outstanding issues.’ But there is no doubt that this and the treaty with Israel are strong steps toward restoring diplomatic relations and travel in the Middle East.
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