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Qatar Airways to increase trips to Bahrain as first flights take-off

The first flight between the two countries is set to take off on Thursday, with multiple daily flights to start in June.

Qatar Airways confirmed an increase in the number of flights to Bahrain from next month, a statement on Thursday confirmed, as direct flights between the two countries were set to take off for the first time in years.

 “Qatar Airways daily flights to Bahrain are starting today. We will increase frequency to 3 daily flights from June 15,” a statement posed on social media said. 

Flights between the two countries were suspended in 2017 after Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in imposing an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar, triggering the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in decades.

However, the dispute came to an end in 2021 with the signing of the Al Ula Accords, though the pace at which countries moved to rekindle ties varied.

Bahrain was the last re-establish relations with Qatar. Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Affairs indicated a clear diplomatic rapprochement between the two nations in April when it announced its initiative to de-escalate tensions.

Flights between the two will resume “within the framework of the brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries and peoples, and in a manner that achieves the common aspirations of the leaderships and citizens of both countries,” the state agency reported at the time.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air is also expected to operate multiple daily services between Bahrain and Qatar, increasing capacity on the route, according to aviation analyst Alex Macheras.

“Doha-Bahrain previously had 10 flights per day (before the 2017 blockade). With ‘Al Ula agreement’ eventually resolving the diplomatic Gulf crisis back in Jan 2021, direct flights between Qatar and Bahrain really has been the final, much-awaited piece of the puzzle,” Alex Macheras wrote.

Cooling tensions

Since the beginning of 2023, strained relationship between Doha and Manama have shown signs of improvement.

In January, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain held a meeting in Abu Dhabi, marking their second encounter since the conflict started.

Shortly after the meeting, Amir Tamim and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman Al Khalifa had a phone conversation addressing unresolved matters.

In February, the foreign ministers of Qatar and Bahrain met for the first time since the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis to resolve outstanding issues between them.

Experts suggest that these issues include historical territorial disputes between the two nations.

Doha and Manama nearly went to war in 1986 due to disagreements over territories such as Zubura, Janan Islands, and Fasht Al-Dibal.

Conflicts over these areas date back to 1937 when British colonialists intervened and established borders to settle the dispute. At the time, these territories were under British protection.

In 1990, both parties were advised to bring their dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The court requested evidence from Qatar and Bahrain to determine the ownership of the territories.

The case lasted for ten years and concluded in 2001 when the court granted Qatar sovereignty over Zubara, Jinan Islands, Haddad Janan, and Fasht Al Dibal. Bahrain was awarded sovereignty over the Hawar islands and Qit’at Jarada.