Saudi Arabia received the first of two flights from Iraq, marking the resumption of direct flights between the two countries.
The Flynas flight, carrying 174 passengers, landed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah Wednesday, coming from Erbil, northern Iraq, for the first time in several years.
The trip, which will be followed by other flights between the airports of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, is the result of the continuous efforts of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, with the support and guidance of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to boost economic and investment relations and develop trade exchange between the two countries.
The exchanged flights would help facilitate the movements of travelers, pilgrims, and Umrah performers between the two countries.
Iraqi Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi said that Wednesday’s flight between Erbil and Jeddah represents the first direct flight between the two countries, and more will follow.
Janabi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the resumption of flights begins with two flights every week until the end of the trial period.
He said Iraqi Airways would soon operate flights between Saudi Arabia and Iraq regularly, adding that the carrier will conduct a flight weekly between Dammam and Baghdad.
The Ambassador explained that the resumption of flights coincided with facilities for Gulf citizens to obtain entry visas upon arrival to Iraq.
Gulf citizens could also obtain an entry visa for a year through the embassy to facilitate travel between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The Iraqi diplomat said that these steps are part of the outputs of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council and that mutual understandings facilitate movement between the two countries, noting that Saudi Arabia took the initiative earlier to allow Iraqis to enter their private vehicles to the Kingdom for Umrah.
He announced that the Council is discussing opening the Arar crossing for regular visitors and tourists to restore the relationship and communication between the two peoples, adding that it is an opportunity for Iraqis to discover the Saudi development and transformation over the last five years.
Janabi noted that the exchanged visits would strengthen social and cultural ties between the two communities.
Upon arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Iraqi travelers were welcomed by the authorities. They left the airport towards Madinah and Makkah al-Mukarramah to perform Umrah.
For his part, the General Manager of Corporate Communications at flynas, Waleed al-Ahmed, said the flight carrying 170 Iraqi passengers comes as the first resumption of flights between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, adding that flynas was the first to operate these flights after 27-year hiatus.
He explained that in 2017, flights were exchanged between the two countries but stopped for several years.
Ahmed told Asharq Al-Awsat that the scheduled flights would start with two weekly flights and be followed by successive steps.
Several Iraqis arriving from Erbil told Asharq Al-Awsat they were delighted to come to the Kingdom and were eager to visit the Holy Sites, appreciating the warm welcome they received upon their arrival at King Abdulaziz International Airport to perform Umrah.
They lauded the efforts to serve the pilgrims and Umrah performers from various countries.
The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) aims to increase the annual passenger traffic in the Kingdom to 330 million passengers while linking more than 250 destinations and transporting 4.5 million tons of air cargo by 2030.