Saudia flight touches down in Bangkok to end 32-year boycott of Thailand
Saudi Arabia has re-established an air connection with Thailand after more than three decades of diplomatic tensions following the so-called Blue Diamond Affair.
Saudia Airlines flight SV846 touched down at Suvarnabhumi Airport from Jeddah at 6pm on Monday, marking the first direct flight to Thailand by the national carrier in 32 years.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed in 1989 after a Thai cleaner’s theft of jewels from a Saudi palace led to a string of murders of Saudi diplomats in Thailand amid suspected police corruption.
The relationship was restored in January this year when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha made a state visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The inaugural flight on Monday was welcomed by Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) representatives. The flight was carrying 71 Saudi tourists, who were greeted with a water salute and traditional Thai masked dance show upon arrival.
Saudia Airlines will operate three direct flights per week from Saudi Arabia to Thailand – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, using 298-seater Boeing 787-9s.
“We expect the direct flights will open new opportunities for tourism businesses in Thailand from Middle Eastern visitors,” said Siripakorn Chiewsamut, TAT’s deputy director of marketing communication.
In 2019, 36,783 Saudi visitors entered Thailand and generated over Bt3.2 billion in tourism revenue, TAT reported. Most were medical and wellness tourists visiting Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Phang Nga, Krabi, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.