Recently, Saudi Arabia restored direct flights to Thailand after 32 years. Do you know the history behind the cold relationship between these two countries? Or the initiatives taken to restore the relationship? Let’s explore.
In 1989, a diplomatic row occurred between Saudi Arabia and Thailand due to a heavy theft of approximately $20 millions. A Thai cleaner allegedly stole jewels of this huge amount from the palace of a Saudi prince. Moreover, 3 Saudi diplomats were shot down in Thailand when they were searching for those diamonds. This theft was named Blue Diamond Affair, which led to a ban on the travel of Thai citizens to Saudi Arabia. Similarly, Saudi Arabian citizens were banned from visiting Thailand because of the coldness of the relationship between these two countries.
Saudi Arabia Restores Direct Flights to Thailand after 32 Years
The First Saudi Arabian Direct Flight Landed in Thailand
After 30 years, initiatives were taken by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to improve this diplomatic relationship. They held a meeting on January 25, 2022 and decided to end this ban on travel between these two countries. As a result, the first Saudi Arabian direct flight landed at Suvarnabhumi International Airport of Bangkok on Monday February 28, 2022 evening. 71 passengers arrived by this flight, which is a mark of the development of good relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
Warm Welcome, Greeted Traditionally, and TAT
The passengers of this first flight from Saudi Arabia were heartily welcomed by Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the Minister of Tourism and Sports in Thailand. The officials of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) also joined him in welcoming these passengers as a mark of good gesture towards Saudi tourists. They were entertained with a Khon masked dance performance, which is a traditional Thai dance drama expressing the local culture. They are also handed souvenirs that will remind them of this special trip to Thailand.
Vice President of International Regions of Saudi Airlines Among Passengers
Among these 71 special passengers, Almusaed Musaed Muhammed was also present, who is the Assistant Vice President of International Regions of Saudia Airlines. Saudia was earlier called Saudi Arabian Airlines, which is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia. This airline is based in Jeddah, with its main operational hub at King Abdulaziz International Airport. It also has secondary hubs at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam. It is also the third largest airline in the Middle East regarding revenue generation. Hence, it is obvious that this airline is chosen for resuming flights to Bangkok.
Diplomatic Relation Will Improve after They were Suspended
The diplomatic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Thailand deteriorated after the Blue Diamond Affair. This is one of the most high-profile jewelry thefts that happened till now in the world. Though most of the stolen jewels were recovered, a blue diamond is lost forever. All flights between these two countries were suspended for an infinite period, due to the bitterness caused by this incident. However, this suspension is now withdrawn due to the initiatives taken by the leaders of both countries, resulting in resuming flight operations on this route after 30 years.
Number of Flights
The Tourism Authority of Thailand informed that Saudia will run three direct flights a week from Riyadh to Bangkok. Boeing 789 aircraft with the seat capacity of accommodating 298 passengers will be used on this route. Travelers can board these flights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week from King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Thai Airways International has also planned to start running regular flights to Saudi Arabia from May, which will increase the number of direct international flights between these two cities. Moreover, Siripakorn Cheap Samoot, the Deputy Governor of TAT, told news agencies that more direct flights will be available to other cities of Thailand other than Bangkok.
Due to the Visit of the Prime Minister of Thailand
The reopening of the direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Thailand is made possible due to the visit of Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia in January 2022. He was accompanied by some of his Cabinet Ministers on this trip, the aim of which was to improve the diplomatic ties between these two countries. He met Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who is the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Though it was a courtesy call, they discussed several matters that can lead to the betterment of the diplomatic relation between these two Asian nations.
More than 20,000 Expected to Visit Thailand
Thailand is expecting more than 20,000 Saudi tourists this year, after resuming the flights between Riyadh and Bangkok. Hence, various road shows and cultural events will be organized for the entertainment of these honored tourists. They will also enjoy many Thai products and amazing services offered in Thailand. Thus, there is high hope for boosting the tourism industry in this country.
Covid Travel Restrictions Lifted
All fully vaccinated Saudi Arabian citizens are openly invited to visit Thailand after resuming flights between the capitals of these two countries. They should receive the second dose of vaccine at least 14 days before their scheduled departure for Bangkok. Now, they do not need to stay in quarantine after reaching Thailand. They only need to stay in a hotel for a day while waiting for the result of their PCR test. They also need to take an antigen test after 5 – 6 days after arriving in Thailand. The number of Saudi Arabian tourists is expected to increase up to 500,000 when the existing Covid restrictions will be lifted in the near future.
So, more travelers will hopefully fly between Riyadh and Bangkok in the future, making the ties between Saudi Arabia and Thailand stronger.