Israel will allow civilian aircraft to overfly its airspace on flights to and from Qatar in time for the FIFA soccer world cup which is set to take place in Qatar between November 21 and December 18, 2022.
Until now, flights to and from the small Persian Gulf state of Qatar have been barred from flying through Israel’s airspace.
Israel does not have any formal diplomatic relationship with Qatar and Doha has shown no interest in following in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain by establishing ties with Jeruselum.
A deal was, however, struck on Wednesday between Israel and air traffic regulators in Europe and Jordan that will allow civilian aircraft from these two regions, as well as the United States, to cut through Israeli airspace to and from Qatar.
The deal will make it quicker and cheaper for the thousands of passengers who are expected to descend on Qatar for the two-week soccer jamboree. According to Israel’s airport authority, the loosening of overflight restrictions will see the number of flights overflying Israel more than double.
Sources quoted by The Times of Israel, say that while the deal has been negotiated specifically for the World Cup, the plan is to keep overflight permissions in place after the competition has finished.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Merav Michaeli said the deal demonstrated Israel “shows good sportsmanship and allows its air borders to be opened in favor of flights and pilots.”
“I welcome the collaborations and would like to strengthen more regional collaborations,” Michaeli continued.
The deal does not, however, allow direct flights between Israel and Qatar, although Israeli citizens will be allowed to enter Qatar in order to attend the World Cup. Diplomatic sensitivities have barred Israelis from entering Qatar unless they were a dual passport holder but under the terms of a separate deal, Israelis will be given limited entry rights.
To be granted entry, Israelis will need to have secured a confirmed match ticket and apply online for a fan permit before attempting to fly to Qatar. As well as being allowed to stay in Qatar, many fans may also choose to base themselves in Dubai or Manama where restriction-free travel is permitted.
Hundreds of flights will operate from around the Middle East every day for the sole purpose of transporting fans to and from World Cup matches. Doha has struggled to build the infrastructure to cope with the visitor numbers anticipated during the World Cup and the daily shuttle service is a way to spread the demand throughout the region.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.