Saudi Arabia’s decision on Monday to stop flights to and from Iran is likely to benefit other airlines in the region as passengers seek out alternatives to travel between the two countries.
The decision, announced in a tweet by Saudi’s General Authority for Civil Aviation, followed Riyadh earlier cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran.
Now, those travelling between the two countries will have to reply on other carriers in the region, adding an extra stop to their journey, stopping in the UAE, Qatar or elsewhere. However, the rise in passengers numbers is expected to be “modest.”
“Passengers will have to use more indirect services, which may produce some modest traffic benefit for those carriers offering them,” John Strickland, an industry expert and director of London-based JLS Consulting, told Gulf News by email.
Prior to the ban, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) flew from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, to Mashhad, Iran and Iran Air and Mahan Air flew to Dammam, Jeddah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia from Iran.
Will Horton, senior analyst at Capa – Centre for Aviation, told Gulf News by email, he didn’t “see a significant benefit in the short-term given the existing larger size of the UAE/Qatar-Iran market compared to Saudi-Iran.”
The Middle East’s biggest carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways all fly to Tehran from their hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, respectively, with Emirates also flying to Mashhad. Meanwhile, UAE no-frills carriers flydubai and Air Arabia fly to nine and six Iranian’s airports, respectively.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Sultan Al Jubeir told Reuters on Monday his country plans to ban people from travelling to Iran. However, he also said there would be no effect on Iranian’s travelling to Makkah in Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah, which attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year.
By Alexander Cornwell
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