by Hani al-Gamal – Cairo
Egypt has opened its airspace to Qatari aircraft for the first time in three years.
Qatari planes have been landing at Egyptian airports since 12 January. The reopening of Egyptian airspace to Qatari aircraft was a direct result of the 5 January Gulf Cooperation Council summit that was held in the Saudi city of Al Ula.
At the summit, Gulf states and Egypt agreed to end a three-year deadlock over Qatar’s support of “terrorist organizations” and its interference in the internal affairs of some Arab states.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain had cut off trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 due to the aforementioned reasons. The four countries had also closed off their airspace to Qatari planes. The reopening of the airspace, Egyptian officials reportedly stated, would enable Qatari airlines to begin operating flights to Egypt once again.
“Qatari airlines will send the schedules of their flights to Egypt”, Bassem Abdel Karim, the media advisor to the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry, told MedyaNews. He stated that Egyptians who wanted to travel to Qatar and Qataris who wanted to travel to Egypt had suffered significantly in the recent past because of the suspension of air travel between the two countries.
Egyptians who wanted to travel to Doha in the past three years had to fly to Turkey and then on to the Qatari capital or to Lebanon or Jordan and then to Qatar. This had raised passengers’ travel costs and increased the time they spent travelling. Some people spent a whole day before they could reach their final destinations in either Cairo or Doha.
Youssri Abdel Wahab, the former head of the Egyptian Air Transport Association, welcomed the resumption of air travel between Cairo and Doha. The closure of the airspace of the four states to Qatari aircraft, he said, had a very negative impact on Qatari airlines. “The resumption of air travel between Qatar and the four countries will help Qatar significantly as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup”, Abdel Wahab told MedyaNews.
He noted that this major soccer tournament can also reflect positively on Egypt’s tourism sector if Egyptian authorities succeed in formulating ‘packages’ that attract those arriving in Qatar for the World Cup to Egypt, thanks to the short distance between Egypt and Qatar. “The World Cup will be organised during the winter season for the first time”, Abdel Wahab said. “This is a good season for tourism in Egypt”.
Wahab stated that the resumption of air travel between Egypt and Qatar can also reflect positively on trade exchanges between Egypt and Qatar, especially after Qatar had to compensate for the lack of goods from Egypt in the past three years by importing goods from other countries, including Turkey, France and Iran.