This Monday evening, the nation of Saudi Arabia announced the reopening of its maritime borders and airspace with Qatar, normalizing the tensions between the two countries following a 3-year conflict. This is a major breakthrough and a huge step forward for the two countries. It is a significant event for the aviation industry in both countries, especially for Qatar airways.
Background and Previous Situation
Back in 2017, the countries of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates accused Qatar for violating a 2014 agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which Qatar is a member of. They claimed that Qatar had supported terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and brought unrest to the Gulf region, but Qatar denied such claims. As a result of these tensions, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE implemented an embargo on Qatar, closing all borders and airspace with Qatar. This embargo blocked numerous air passages and routes from Qatar, and airlines from Qatar were forced to divert around these countries, thereby costing more fuel and extending flight durations. Qatar also suffered a severe blow from the lack of goods imported from Saudi Arabia.
Relations started improving in September of 2020 when Qatar signed the Abraham Accords with Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, easing the tensions between these countries. Qatar was once again able to fly through these countries. However, not much of a change resulted since Qatar’s largest obstacle still remained – Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is Qatar’s only bordering country and it offered the biggest obstacle to air travel in Qatar, forcing airlines to take a significant detour along routes to the west.
Most recently, with the new diplomatic improvements between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, airlines in Qatar are once again able to fly through Saudi Arabia. This is significant for the aviation industry, since airlines such as Qatar airways will be able to fly shorter routes for almost all of their aircraft. Over time, this will result in massive fuel savings and greatly reduced fuel consumption for Qatari airlines. The repeal of the 2017 embargo on Qatar will also benefit the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, since more aircraft will be able to fly into Qatar on shorter and more efficient routes.
Overall, the reconciliation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is big news for the aviation industry in the Middle East, and will result in several important benefits. In light of the current aviation situation from the pandemic, this event is critical and progressive news for airlines based in Qatar. It’s assuring to see conditions between tensioned countries recover and it’s great to see conditions improve within the aviation industry.
Cover image is credited to: Airline Geeks