Flight to Tel Aviv full of Israelis lands in Saudi Arabia because of technical issue

Air Seychelles plane makes unscheduled stop in Jeddah; replacement plane dispatched to fly the passengers to Israel; passengers say they’ve been treated warmly by the Saudis

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Media on July 25, 2020, shows masked traveler walking at the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport.  (Saudi Ministry of Media / AFP)
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Media on July 25, 2020, shows masked traveler walking at the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport. (Saudi Ministry of Media / AFP)

A plane traveling from Seychelles to Tel Aviv made an unscheduled landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday night.

Air Seychelles flight HM022, which was full of Israeli passengers, made the touchdown due to a technical issue, the airline said in a statement.

According to Hebrew media outlets, the problem was an electrical issue and pilots did not declare an emergency landing. There were said to be 128 Israelis on board.

“All the passengers are safe and a few minutes ago, a replacement flight departed [for Jeddah so as] to return the passengers and continue their flight to Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been updated,” the airline’s statement read, without detailing the problem.

Hebrew media reports said the replacement plane would fly the passengers to Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it was dealing with the issue. “The Foreign Ministry is in touch with passengers and the airline with the goal of finding a quick, safe solution,” a statement from the ministry said.

Israel does not have formal ties with Saudi Arabia, but the countries have inched closer in recent years and are reportedly nearing a possible US-brokered diplomatic breakthrough.

Passengers said they had been warmly treated by the Saudis.

“The reception we got from the Saudis was very surprising,” Emmanuelle Arbel, one of the passengers, told Radio 103FM from an airport hotel early Tuesday. “They said to us ‘You are most welcome’ and were smiling. In truth, we were not expecting this. ”

Arbel said when they first landed in Jeddah “we were a bit stressed, we did not know what was happening.”

Some people started crying, she said.

Jeddah Airport is an alternate landing site for routes to Israel that pass over its airspace and is approved in advance for such flights in case of a need for unscheduled or emergency landings.

Since last year, the kingdom has allowed flights to Israel to cross over its airspace.

Saudi Arabia only began allowing Israeli airlines to fly over its territory in a special air corridor for flights to and from the UAE and Bahrain after the Abraham Accords were signed in 2020.

Most Popular
read more: