Saudi Arabia announced plans to open its airspace to all commercial carriers, thus meaning flights to and from Israel can now overfly and operate into the kingdom.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said in a statement on July 15, 2022 that it took the decision to “open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying”, to fulfill its obligations under the Chicago Convention and to enhance international air connectivity.
The decision was welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who is traveling to Israel on July 15, and who said it would help promote stability in the Middle East. Biden will also become the first president of the United States to fly from Israel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia as a result.
“Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open its airspace for all civilian planes, including those flying to and from Israel, is an important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East region,” Biden said in a statement. “While this opening has long been discussed, now, thanks to months of steady diplomacy between my Administration and Saudi Arabia, it is finally a reality.”
Biden said the decision by Saudi Arabia will build momentum towards integrating Israel further into the region. “I will do all that I can, through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to keep advancing this groundbreaking process.”
The move was also welcomed by Israeli flag carrier El Al, which has had to divert around the airspace, thus adding time and fuel to its flights.
Route of El Al Flight LY81 from Tel Aviv to Bangkok on July 13, 2022. Courtesy of Flightradar24
“It’s great news!” Shlomi Am-Salom, spokesman for El Al, told Bloomberg News. “We’ve been waiting for it for a long time. It will be a great help for Israeli passengers, and we really think this is a very positive, and welcome, and blessed decision.”