2021 has started with some positive diplomatic news for Qatar Airways and its neighborhood relations. Saudi Arabia, along with other states, has agreed to reopen its land and air borders, ending the three-and-a-half-year blockade. The end of the blockade will benefit Qatar Airways immensely, and here’s why.

Airspace access

Qatar Airways’ biggest benefit from the end of the blockade will be access to airspace over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and more countries. Access to these countries will allow Qatar to restore flights to many hubs in the Middle East, including Jeddah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Manama.

While adding flights to a handful of neighboring cities doesn’t seem like a major change, it will be huge for Qatar. As a hub-and-spoke airline, Qatar can offer connecting flights to thousands of passengers daily and will have access to a growing market with substantial business traffic.

The opening up of airspace will also impact many passengers who’ve been cut off from traveling directly to Qatar. Flights from Dubai to Doha currently take over seven hours due to a stop in a non-blockade country like Turkey, Oman, or Jordan. The end of the blockade will allow for this route, and many others, to return to being just one hour.

Shorter flight time

One of the most impactful changes for passengers will be much shorter flights on westbound trips from Qatar. This means routes to Europe, Africa, and the US will see shorter flight times from anywhere between ten minutes to a full hour. Flights to Africa will feel the biggest impact, as the circuitous routes over the Arabian Sea currently being taken will be gone.

The blockade meant Qatar Airways could not fly over Saudi Arabia and other allied countries, forcing it to fly over Oman or Iraq to reach destinations in Africa and Europe. While half-an-hour extra flight time doesn’t feel like much, the extra fuel burn likely costs Qatar tens of thousands of dollars every flight.

Return to normalcy

The coming months will see flight networks begin to look similar to early 2017, before the blockade. This will give passengers more options while flying and boosting aviation in the region as a whole. We may also see fares fall as Qatar and other airlines return to the markets.

It should be remembered that Qatar Airways isn’t the only one reaping the benefits of this breakthrough. Carriers like Emirates, Saudia, and Gulf Air will now also have access to Doha and carry more passengers. For Middle Eastern aviation, 2021 will be a much stronger year than the last.

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