The first Qatar Airways flight to cross Saudi Arabia in three and a half years departed from Doha on Thursday following the lifting of a long-standing blockade.
The Airbus A350-941, A7-ALW msn 114, took off at 9:13 PM as flight QR1365 and landed in Johannesburg at 4:32am.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel boycott on Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism. The resulting ‘blockade’ meant many aircraft had to fly around Saudi Arabia, adding hours of flying time.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) June 8, 2017
The first Qatar flight followed a series of further breakthroughs between the countries in the last 24 hours following a crucial Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.
Aside from access to the airspace, the nations have agreed that trade and diplomatic relations can resume to form a common ground on the region’s “big issues”.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s foreign minister added he wanted all sides to implement a fuller deal “faster rather than slower”.
“The GCC has been one of the most successful Arab regional groupings,” he said. “So I expect on the diplomatic front it will go back to its vitality.”
The lifting of restrictions follows the the UN’s top court ruling in October that Qatar could challenge the blockage at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The four countries had argued that the latter body did not have the authority to rule against the aircraft ban.
At the time, the Saudi-led coalition accused Qatar of covertly sponsoring terrorism, triggering a severing of diplomatic ties between the island nation and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
In the three years since, Qatar-registered aircraft have not been able to cross through the bloc state’s airspace, leading to significant logistical difficulties for the airline.