The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the signing of the "solidarity and stability" agreement that will see Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt open their air, land and sea borders with Qatar.
The agreement paves the way for commercial airlines to resume regional connectivity—which will shorten flight times and provide essential air links to families and businesses across the region, IATA said.
"The reopening of airspace with Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt is welcome news for the region, passengers and the aviation industry during these very difficult times," it said.
It will permit the resumption of direct flights between these countries and Qatar, eliminating complex transit travel itineraries that saw typical journey times increase from under an hour to over five hours in some cases.
"The agreement also opens the door for the establishment of quarantine-free travel corridors which will allow families and friends across the region to be able to reconnect and businesses trade more easily. And will facilitate the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines globally given the region’s strategic location,” Muhamad al-Bakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, said.
Oxford Economics recently said in its research note said prior to the blockade, around 45% of overnight visitors to Qatar arrived from Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but by 2019 visitors from these countries had dropped by over 90%.
In addition, flights to/from Qatar could not use the airspace of blockading countries, adding time and fuel costs to journeys to/from Qatar for other countries, it said.
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