First Saudia commercial flight lands in the Kurdistan Region

 First Saudia commercial flight lands in the Kurdistan Region

For the first time, a Saudi Arabian commercial flight landed in the Kurdistan Region on Monday and it was announced there will be three flights per week between Erbil and Jeddah.

A Saudi delegation headed by Saleh bin Nasser al-Jasser, the director-general, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), was on the flight and then met with Kurdistan Regional Government authorities including Interior Minister Karim Sinjari.

The head of Saudia said during a press conference that he was "thrilled to have been here in the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and hopefully this is the start of an increase in improved relations between both sides.”

He detailed Riyadh is working to increase the number of its planes from 150-200 by 2020 and they want to expand their work in Iraq.

Others are considering flights to the Kurdistan Region.

"There are many other airlines wanting to have direct flights to Erbil," said Talar Faiq, the head of Erbil International Airport (EIA).

With the addition of Saudia’s direct Erbil, she revealed that 21 airlines are working in Erbil and their weekly flights will increase from 292 to 295. 

"The launch of Erbil-Saudi Arabia flights comes at a time when Erbil is developing and is hosting many refugees," she said.

Thousands of pilgrims from the Kurdistan Region go on Hajj in Saudi Arabia every year. They previously have used privately chartered planes.

Fayaq said the flights are promising news for those who go to Mecca for Hajj or Umrah.

"They could from now, directly fly from the Kurdistan Region to Saudi Arabia and vice versa at a lower cost," she said.

Mawlawi Jabbari, head of the KRG Tourism Board expressed their desire "to conduct direct flights with many other Gulf countries especially Kuwait."

He said they engaged in talks with relevant authorities of Kuwait concerning this matter, but it has been delayed due ongoing issues with Iraq. Baghdad is working to form a new government and it controls airspace over the Kurdistan Region.

In  June, Saudi diplomats and businessmen visited the Kurdistan Region and agreed with KRG officials to open economic ties.

"Following the completion of the first round of a conference of Saudi investors with members of the Kurdistan Regional Government and businessmen, we followed that there are very important investment opportunities in the Kurdistan Region," Sami Bin Abdullah al-Obeidi, head of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Commerce Chambers, told journalists in Erbil at the time.

The Kurdistan Region offered over 1,500 projects in tourism, agriculture, and other sectors in the conference with Saudi investors.