Military activity in the vicinity of Jeddah has seen that city’s airport temporarily closed. Flights are diverting to other airports around Saudi Arabia. The Arab Coalition has reportedly intercepted and downed inbound drones and missiles equipped with explosives. The drones and missiles are coming out of Yemen and targeting civilian infrastructure such as airports.
Missiles and explosive drones in the vicinity of Jeddah Airport
King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah is normally Saudi Arabia’s busiest airport. The airport is a jumping-off point for millions of Islamic pilgrims going to Mecca every year. Before the global travel downturn, over 42 million passengers annually passed through the airport.
Jeddah, situated on the Red Sea, is approximately 800 kilometers from the Saudi Arabia / Yemen border. Yemen’s Houthis are launching the missiles and drones as they step up their aerial attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Al Arabiya News is reporting Saudi Arabia’s Brigadier General Turki al-Maliki saying;
“The Houthi militia deliberately escalates hostile and terrorist targeting of civilians and civilian objects systematically.”
The Dubai-based news outlet says the Arab Coalition has downed six Houthi ballistic missiles and drones.
Inbound aircraft holding and diverting
Among the airlines with at least one arrival or departure scheduled at Jeddah over the next few hours are Saudia, flynas, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Egyptair, Gulf Air, Buffalo Airways, and flydubai.
At the time of publication, multiple flights are already en route to Jeddah. Among those are Saudia flights from Washington Dulles, Dhaka, Nairobi, and Madrid. An Ethiopian Airlines A350 is coming in from Addis Ababa. Already in the vicinity of Jeddah are flynas and Ariana Afghan Airlines aircraft. At the time of writing, two of those aircraft are circling to the northwest of Jeddah, while a third appears to have diverted to Medina.
Saudi Arabia is a complex and interesting airline market
The long-running war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthis adds a layer of complexity to Saudi Arabia’s aviation market and the airlines and airports that are part of it.
Two years ago, Saudi Arabia moved to open up the country to more tourism. The Saudi Government relaxed its visa requirements for citizens of 49 countries. Saudi Arabia wants tourism to contribute 10% of gross domestic product by the end of this decade. To meet that goal, Saudi Arabia needs to ramp up its aviation industry infrastructure.
Twelve months ago, Saudi Arabia’s airline industry ground to a halt. The country’s international airports closed to international flights, and domestic flights ceased. Normally, Saudi Arabia’s domestic aviation market is one of the world’s busiest and fastest-growing. The shutdown of the domestic airline sector lasted until mid-2020.
Jeddah airport remains closed following Saudi-led coalition’s downing of four Houthi drones ⛔️
Given the extensive holding times, flights are beginning to divert elsewhere in Saudi Arabia.
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) April 11, 2021
Saudi Arabia’s domestic airline sector has since bounced back relatively well, with flights been re-introduced in a managed series of steps. But Saudi Arabia has remained closed to international travelers. However, that is tentatively set to change in mid-May.
The international flights that are operating, such as SV36 coming in from Dulles today, carry Saudi citizens heading home, essential personal with a travel exemption, and cargo. But Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s biggest international airline, is gearing up for a relaxation of entry requirements and an uptick in international flights.
However, aircraft having to divert due to the threat of missile attacks and military activity in the destination airport’s vicinity won’t encourage people to hop on a plane to Saudi Arabia anytime soon.