Saudia Arabia has announced plans to open its airspace to commercial airlines from all countries, including Israel, ahead of a contentious visit by President Joe Biden to the country on Friday.
In a short statement, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said the country was easing overflight restrictions because of its “keenness to fulfil its obligations under the Chicago Convention 1944, which stipulates non-discrimination between civil aircraft used in international air navigation”.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize the state of Israel and there are no bilateral relations between the two countries. Until now, most Israeli civil airliners were banned from flying through Saudi airspace, although overflights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates have been permitted following a landmark deal in 2020.
Officials added that the shift in policy was designed to improve the Kingdom’s standing as a global aviation hub. Under the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country is investing heavily in creating a tourism and aviation market that could include creating a new airline to take on regional rivals like Emirates and Qatar Airways.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan welcomed the announcement, saying the “historic decision” was down to President Biden’s “persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months”.
“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,” Sullivan said.
Biden is due to arrive in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on a direct flight from Israel.
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.