Qatar flights get hours shorter as Saudi Arabia reopens its airspace.
I don't normally cover international relations here, but this story is a huge win for thousands of air travellers as the world slowly reopens in 2021. This is of particular interest to Canadian travellers, as Air Canada recently announced a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways, along with a new route from Toronto to Doha, that will open up faster, more efficient connections between Canada and both Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.
So, what's the story? Since mid-2017, thousands of Qatar Airways flights have had to detour hours out of their way, due a border blockade barring its aircraft from flying over its neighbours Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have accused Qatar of supporting religious terrorists.
Recently, Kuwait has mediated negotiations to end the dispute, and its Foreign Minister, Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah announced Monday that an agreement has been reached to end the blockade with immediate effect.
For the past four years, many trans-Atlantic flights, as well as almost every flight from Africa, has had to fly hundreds of miles out of its way to avoid Saudi and Emirati airspace, adding hours of flight time, as seen in the example below:
With the dispute resolved and borders reopening, Qatar flights get shorter and everybody wins!
My personal hope - and this is just me speculating - is that Air Canada's new partnership with Qatar will extend beyond code-shared flights. Aeroplan execs have recently hinted in public appearances that they'll announce new award partners this year, and I'm really hoping that this means Qatar, but we'll see what actually unfolds.