Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has approved the request received from the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority to overfly the kingdom’s territory to all countries, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, citing an “official source” with GACA. The opening of the airspace gives UAE airlines the opportunity to fly scheduled operations to Israel, but it remains unclear whether or not Saudi Arabia will grant the same permission to Israeli airlines.
GACA did, however, allow for a ceremonial first flight by El Al from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi to pass through its territory on Monday, raising expectations that Saudi Arabia would open its airspace to Israeli airlines as well. So far only Israel’s Israir has signaled its intention to fly regular service between the Jewish state and the UAE, while officials in the Emirates remain quiet about their intentions for Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways.
Emirati officials have expressed consternation about the idea that Israel plans the mere “suspension” of the annexation of parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, rather than a full cessation of that program, the understanding on which sides reached an agreement on full diplomatic normalization last month.