August 12, 2022

Here’s a fantastic development for international aviation…

Saudi Arabia stops restricting airspace

Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize Israel, and therefore historically Saudi Arabia hasn’t allowed Israeli airlines or flights to & from Israel to use its airspace. This has meant that lots of flights to & from Israel have taken roundabout routings.

This will finally be changing — Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced that Saudi Arabia’s airspace is now open to all carriers, including Israeli ones. The country explained that the decision comes within the framework of the country’s keenness to fulfill its obligation under the Chicago Convention of 1944, and for the country to enhance international air connectivity.

This development was revealed just ahead of US President Joe Biden visiting Saudi Arabia, after having visited Israel. This is expected to be part of a larger deal involving Saudi Arabia, which could also see new nonstop flights between Saudi Arabia & Israel for Muslim pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia is opening its airspace to all airlines

This will shave hours off some flights

Saudi Arabia opening its airspace is only the latest step of Israel starting to get more normalized relations in the region. In mid-2020, we saw Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates establish diplomatic relations, which was a big step for the region. With this, we’ve seen a countless number of flights added between the two countries.

Historically Saudi Arabia restricted its airspace to all airlines flying to & from Israel. However, with Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates being allies, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all flights between Israeli & the United Arab Emirates. That has allowed flights between the two countries to spend most of their time over Saudi Arabian airspace.

EL AL flight path between Tel Aviv and Dubai

Now this is being taken a step further, as all flights to & from Israel can use Saudi Arabian airspace. For example, take a look at the circuitous routing that EL AL flights between Tel Aviv and Bangkok have needed to take, having to fly along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, before passing south of Yemen and Oman. Going forward this flight will be significantly shorter.

EL AL flight path between Tel Aviv and Bangkok

Bottom line

Saudi Arabia is opening its airspace to all airlines, meaning that all flights to & from Israel can use Saudi Arabian airspace going forward. Previously there was an exception for flights between Israeli and the United Arab Emirates, but that has now been expanded significantly.

I’d say there has never been a better time for airspace being open, except for that whole Russia thing…

What do you make of Saudi Arabia finally opening its airspace to all airlines?

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