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Saudi Arabia opens airspace to all airlines, including Israeli carriers

July 15 2022
3 min read
Saudi Arabia opens airspace to all airlines, including Israeli carriers
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In landmark news for the geopolitical world as much as the aviation world, Saudi Arabia will open its airspace to all airlines, including flights to and from Israel, in line with international rule.

The move will “complement the efforts aimed at consolidating the kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents and ... enhance international air connectivity,” said the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).

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The move will benefit airlines operating tricky long-haul routes between Asia and Israel — especially El AI, the flagship carrier of Israel, which until now has had to take long detours around Saudi Arabia, adding additional hours to flights and wasting fuel.

The current route operated by El Al between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) (Screenshot from Flightradar24.com)

In the longer term, the fact that direct flights will be possible between Riyadh and Tel Aviv marks a major shift in relations between the two countries and is a promising sign of a more harmonized Middle East.

The announcement came several hours before U.S. President Joe Biden was due to arrive in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president is visiting with the goal of smoothing U.S. relations with the Gulf state in the face of a turbulent global oil market, along with strengthening connections between Israel and the Arab world.

Biden credited his administration with brokering the air space deal, adding in a statement that “Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open its airspace for all civilian planes, including those flying to and from Israel, is an important step toward building a more integrated and stable Middle East region.”

A lounge at Riyadh Airport. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan echoed those comments.

“This decision paves the way for a more integrated, stable, and secure Middle East region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of the United States and the American people, and for the security and prosperity of Israel," he said.

Related: Emirates refuses Heathrow demand to cut flights — how are other airlines reacting?

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, but it’s believed there are ways in which the two states work behind the scenes. This latest development should go some way toward making for a brighter future for both nations.

Featured photo by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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