Historic! Qatar Airways Flight QR1365 Just Crossed – And Cleared – Saudi Airspace

In June 2017 the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar. Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai stopped flying to Doha. Qatar Airways was banned from flying to these countries. And since Qatar doesn’t control its own airspace they were locked in except for using a narrow corridor of Iranian airspace.

The blockade was supposed to stop Qatar’s support for Iranian terror, but forced Qatar closer to Iran via paying over $100 million a year in additional overflight fees and greater reliance on Tehran. The blockading countries also demanded Qatar shut down Al Jazeera, whose news they felt risked the stability of rule in their countries.

The International Court of Justice ruled over the summer that the air blockade was illegal. The U.S. has been pushing for a resolution (though perhaps the UAE and Saudi Arabia were initially emboldened by the U.S. administration in power).

The blockade was lifted Tuesday, and in a step for regional peace the very first Qatar Airways flight – QR1365 from Doha to Johannesburg – took off, and the Airbus A350-900 flew through Saudi airspace, and successfully and peacefully cleared it.

Screen Shot, Credit: FlightRadar24

As with the resumption of relations and flights between Israel and the U.A.E., it’s a step to celebrate as one arena in which regional tensions have relaxed.

While conflict with Israel gets the most press in the U.S., the primary conflict in the Mideast is between Saudi Arabia (along with Turkey) seeking Sunni influence in the region and working to counter Shia Iran. The conflict in Syria, for instance, is largely a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis have fought Iran-backed rebels in Yemen over the past several years.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Syria is a proxy war between more than just Saudi vs Iran. It’s weirder than that. It’s the Saudis/Emiratis/Israelis on one side (against Assad); the Iranians and Russians on another side (that of Assad); and the Turks and Qataris on yet another side (against Assad).

  2. The end of the blockade is most immediately about Lebanon. Qatar has been a source of funding and support for Hezbollah, which is Iran’s colonial army that occupies Lebanon. The EU, US, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, Japan, and most decent places have long considered Hezbollah a terror organization. Yesterday, for the first time, the Gulf Cooperation Council in which Qatar is now Chair, issued a joint communique declaring Hezbollah a terror organization. I doubt the timing is a coincidence.

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