Saudi Arabia has lifted its suspension on international flights for certain travellers, but will only fully reopen its skies in January 2021.

Since September 15, 2020, certain categories of Saudi citizens and residents are allowed to travel, including public and military sector employees, diplomats and their families, those working for public or non-profit private sector jobs abroad, business travellers, patients who need treatment, those studying abroad, humanitarian cases, and sports teams, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reports. Gulf state citizens and non-Saudi residents with valid residency or visitors' visas may now also enter the country, conditional on proving they are COVID-19 negative. Saudis with proof of residence outside the Kingdom may also travel, and there would be a gradual move toward lifting the Umrah pilgrimage suspension.

The Kingdom would scrap all travel restrictions after January 1, 2021, with a specific date to be announced in December, SPA reports. Saudi Arabia suspended international flights six months ago to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and imposed stringent measures, including 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities.

Saudia (SV, Jeddah), in response to a query on social media, confirmed commercial international flights would resume on January 1, 2021 – pending confirmation from Saudi authorities 30 days before – but that exceptions would be made for certain categories of travellers from September 15, as announced.

Low-cost airline flynas (XY, Riyadh) will operate special trips between Riyadh and Dubai Int'l from September 17 to September 28, the airline said on Twitter.

Nesma Airlines (Saudi Arabia) (NA, Hail), SaudiGulf Airlines (6S, Dammam), and flyadeal (F3, Jeddah) made no immediate announcement about the resumptions of international flights.

EgyptAir (MS, Cairo Int'l) would resume flights to and from Saudi Arabia for certain categories of passengers, according to reports from Cairo. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest group of Egyptian expatriates worldwide.

MEA - Middle East Airlines (ME, Beirut) announced the resumption of flights to and from Jeddah and Riyadh as of September 16, according to social media posts.

Singaporean online travel search engine, Wego, reported around 141,000 flight searches to and from Saudi Arabia following the announcement, while travel agencies in Saudi Arabia and India reported a flurry of queries for travel back to the Kingdom. Akbar Gulf Travels in India claimed to be chartering more than 30 flights from Jeddah to fetch returning workers from various regions in India.

The Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said all international airports were geared up to operate flights in coordination with the Ministry of Health and other government agencies, according to SPA.

Saudi Arabia resumed scheduled domestic passenger flights from May 31, following a 71-day moratorium on commercial traffic.