A Mayday call by HM22, an Air Seychelles captain, resulted in Saudi Arabia opening its borders to 128 Israeli tourists for an unscheduled overnight stay in Jeddah. This may serve as encouragement for the well-respected and creative minister of tourism in Saudi Arabia, HE Ahmed bin Aqil al-Khateeb, to support another “out of the box” opportunity for his country’s fast-opening tourism industry.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seen as an undisputed leader in the global travel and tourism industries. This is not only because one megaproject after another has been announced, but also because of the efficiency and speed with which the Kingdom has opened its borders to international visitors.
Saudi Arabia has been the host of important and spectacular international travel and tourism events, such as the WTTC Summit last year, and the upcoming World Tourism Day by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on September 27.
Israel is a member of the UNWTO, as is Saudi Arabia. Both countries have not yet established diplomatic relations, and tourism is off-limits between citizens of each other’s countries.
The neighboring United Arab Emirates opened its borders to Israel, and tourism exchanges between the two countries broke one record after another.
The Indian Ocean paradise, the Republic of Seychelles, may have now played a game-changing role in improving the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel.
This is not due to mitigation, but because of an unexpected emergency landing in Jeddah of a nonstop flight from Mahe to Tel Aviv by Air Seychelles, the national carrier of Seychelles.
Air Seychelles is flying the Creole spirit.
This creole spirit drove former Seychelles Tourism Minister Alain St. Ange, who is now the Vice President for Government Relations for the World Tourism Network.
He told eTurboNews when he was in office, that Seychelles has only friends, and no enemies, welcoming visitors to its shores from anywhere in the world without visas.
An Israel-Saudi normalization deal is still in the works, but 128 Israeli citizens landed in Jeddah on Monday due to an electrical fault on an Air Seychelles flight making its way to Tel Aviv.
According to Air Seychelles, approximately 4 to 5 hours into the flight, an electrical issue occurred, and the captain declared an emergency and diverted to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which was the nearest airport.
The Authorities in Israel and Saudi Arabia were alerted to the situation and kept in constant communication. The Saudis approved that the passengers were allowed to disembark the aircraft, and all passengers and crew were accommodated and welcomed with Saudi hospitality at a Jeddah airport hotel overnight.
In the morning on Tuesday, a replacement Air Seychelles aircraft was dispatched, and the passengers and crew were flown from Jeddah to Tel Aviv, arriving at approximately 1:30 p.m. Tel Aviv time.
The airline said that the damaged aircraft will remain on the ground in Jeddah until the replacement parts have been installed.
The Air Seychelles chief executive, Sandy Benoiton, said: “The safety and security of our passengers and crew are always our top priorities. The crew followed all protocols and, out of an abundance of caution, diverted the flight to Jeddah. The Israeli and Saudi authorities were informed at every stage. The passengers gave Air Seychelles credit for the good handling of the situation and thanked the Saudis for the way they were warmly greeted.”
Saudi Arabia’s hosting of Israeli passengers prompted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thank Saudi Arabia.
He said: “I greatly appreciate the warm attitude of the Saudi authorities to the Israeli passengers whose flight was in distress,” he said in a video recorded in Hebrew with Arabic subtitles, as he gestured towards a map of the region behind him. “I greatly appreciate the good neighborliness.”
Jeddah International Airport confirmed that a number 2 state of emergency had been declared with all the equipment in place to provide assistance to the plane. The emergency operational management room at the airport was activated, and the plane landed safely at 8:40 p.m. local time.
WTN VP Alain St. Ange commented from his office in Seychelles:
“I am proud of our national airline for how they handled this emergency. I also hope it opened the window for Saudi-Israeli cooperation a little wider. Tourism has been instrumental in many situations, and according to our WTN member Louis D’Amore, Founder of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, tourism is a custodian of world peace.”Alain St. Ange, Vice President World Tourism Network
On World Tourism Day, Louis D’Amore will pass the leadership of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism at a handover event in New York during the UN General Assembly.