Qatar Airways has started rerouting flights to pass through Saudi Arabia airspace after the two countries agreed to lift the border blockade.
“This evening, Qatar Airways began to reroute some flights through Saudi airspace,” tweeted Qatar’s national carrier.
The first flight to fly over the Saudi Arabia after the lifting of the blockade was Qatar Airways flight QR1365. The flight departed 8:45pm from Doha and arrived at 4:35am in Johannesburg on January 8, 2021, according to FlightRadar24 data.
The communication between the Qatar Airways pilots and the Saudi air traffic controllers is restored, and the airline will be able to save on fuel and flight time. Iranian media reported that Qatar has been paying around $100 million per year to use Tehran’s airspace to bypass Saudi Arabia. Restored air links will be also important for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
On January 4, 2021, Saudi Arabia and Qatar agreed to reopen airspace, sea and land borders for the first time after three years. The sanctions on Qatari aviation, known as the Gulf Blockade, were imposed after Qatar was accused of supporting terrorism by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain as well as Egypt.
In July 2020, Qatar Airways announced it was seeking at least $5 billion in compensation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain for blocking it from their airspace. The airline claimed the measures specifically targeted its operations and caused damage to its investments. Qatar is said to have agreed to drop lawsuits seeking the compensation.