Erbil, Jeddah begin direct flights
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Direct flight between the Kurdistan Region’s capital and Saudi Arabia’s port city began on Wednesday morning, with the first group of Kurdish pilgrims traveling from Erbil airport.
Flynas, a Saudi budget airline, took off from Erbil International Airport (EIA) at 7:25 AM (Erbil time), marking the first flight between the two cities.
The EIA has yet to release the full flight schedules for future trips, Kurdistan 24 learned from the airport’s Director Ahmed Hoshyar, on Wednesday.
A Kurdish delegation visited Saudi Arabia in January this year to discuss launching direct flights between the two cities, Hoshyar said, adding Wednesday’s first flight was the result of their successful negotiations.
The flight launch is due to the “strong relations Saudi Arabia enjoys with Iraq and Kurdistan Region,” Khalid Shamrany, the deputy Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Erbil, told reporters at the airport.
The direct route would enhance economic ties between Riyadh, Erbil, and Baghdad, and facilitate pilgrims’ visits to the country, according to the Saudi diplomat.
Thousands from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq annually visit Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest site of Kaaba, to undertake Hajj and Umrah— two Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca.
Hundreds of travel agencies currently operating in the Kurdistan Region offer religious travel packages to Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In recent years, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have expanded their diplomatic and economic ties with Saudi Arabia.
Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 Correspondent Shayma Bayz