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Saudi airline fails to get Doha OK to fly Qatari haj pilgrims

Staff Writer | August 21, 2017
Saudi Arabia’s state carrier said it had been unable to send planes to transport Qatari pilgrims to the kingdom because it had been unable to get permission to land at Doha airport, amid a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
Saudi Arabian
Middle East   The first flight has not been able to take off
Qatar and Saudi Arabia, along with three other Arab states, have been locked in a political row that severed transport ties to Doha in June, but Riyadh said last week it would facilitate the travel of Qataris for the annual haj pilgrimage.

Between 2 million and 3 million Muslims travel to Mecca each year for the pilgrimage — which every able-bodied Muslim has a duty to undertake at least once in their lifetime.

Along with reopening its land border with Qatar, Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that King Salman had ordered the dispatch of a Saudi Arabia Airlines plane to fly Qatari pilgrims to Jeddah at his own expense so that they could go on to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.

But the first flight has not been able to take off from Saudi Arabia because it had not yet received landing permission in Doha, said Saleh al-Jasser, the general director of the airline, according to Saudi state news agency SPA.

He said the airline had applied for landing permission several days ago. A Qatari government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.