BEIRUT (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s decision to scrap COVID-19-related restrictions for passengers flying from Lebanon will give a big boost to air traffic between Beirut, Riyadh and Jeddah, an industry leader said on Friday.
Jean Abboud, head of the Syndicate of Tourism and Travel Agencies, told Arab News that airlines have started scheduling their flights to Riyadh and Jeddah from Beirut. Most people were relieved by the move, he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Al-Bukhari, tweeted Thursday evening about the decision, as the Kingdom lifts precautionary measures during the Hajj season.
Lebanese Tourism Minister Walid Nassar thanked Saudi leaders for allowing people to fly directly from Lebanon without having to spend 14 days outside the country before entering Saudi Arabia.
Nassar added that the Kingdom has always stood by Lebanon and the Lebanese, making decisions that are “in the interest of our country”.
Abboud said previous measures had prevented around 60% of Lebanese living and working in Saudi Arabia from returning directly from Beirut.
“So they became more reluctant to fly to Lebanon. The Lebanese community in the Kingdom is quite large and the Lebanese traveled very frequently to Beirut, sometimes every weekend. However, the condition requiring them to stay 14 days in another country before returning to Saudi Arabia has become a major waste of time and money.
“Airlines are adjusting their flights to the Kingdom in light of this decision, especially since a large number of Lebanese are currently spending their summer holidays in Lebanon and wish to return via a direct flight to Saudi Arabia. “
MP Bilal Al-Hashimi thanked Saudi Arabia for its decision.
He said, “We are happy to return to the Kingdom of goodness, humanity, love and giving, which has always been an example for Arab brotherhood. We all yearn for more such decisions that we are used to from the Kingdom that has never left Lebanon. On the contrary, he has always given his support and help, and he always will, especially in these virtuous days. »
Mohamed Choucair, the president of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, described the Saudi decision as an important step towards the reconstruction of bilateral relations, a pillar for the balance and the recovery of Lebanon.
Head of the Lebanon and Gulf Businessmen’s Councils, Samir Al-Khatib, said: “We are following this matter closely with the relevant officials in the Kingdom, in particular with the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, given that the ease of movement between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia constitutes an essential basis for the maintenance of relations of brotherhood, friendship and love between the two brotherly peoples.
“This decision is very important to prove the concern of the Kingdom for the best relations between the two brotherly peoples and the two brotherly countries. I hope we will hear more good news soon.
In April, the foreign ministries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait announced the return of their ambassadors to Lebanon following the diplomatic and economic row sparked by statements by a former information minister on the war in Yemen.
At the time, the Saudi Foreign Ministry stressed the importance of returning Lebanon to its Arab origins.
He said Boukhari’s return to Beirut was in response to “appeals and pleas from moderate national political forces in Lebanon, and in confirmation of the Lebanese Prime Minister’s statement on the government’s commitment to take the necessary and required measures to strengthen cooperation with the Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and stop all political, military and security activities affecting the Kingdom and the GCC countries.
Passenger traffic through Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport has increased significantly, reaching around 30,000 passengers per day, with over 19,000 arrivals, mostly Lebanese living and working in the GCC, Europe, Canada, United States United States and Africa.
Passenger traffic for the first half of 2022 reached 2,568,797, compared to 1,444,502 passengers in 2021, an increase of 77.83% and an increase of 113% compared to the same period in 2020, according to the general manager. of the civil aviation of the airport, Fadi Al-Hassan. .
The total number of domestic, Arab and foreign airline flights in the first half of 2022 was 22,501, compared to 15,033 flights in the first half of 2021, an increase of 49.67%.
The number of flights arriving in Lebanon increased by 49.68% to 11,253. Flights departing from Lebanon increased by 49.67% to 11,248.
The total number of passengers passing through Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport in June reached 580,787, compared to 394,220 passengers in June 2021, an increase of 47.32%.
The number of passengers in the first week of July increased by 44.91% compared to the same period in 2021, reaching 183,352.