While flight diversions happen all the time, I’d say this one is pretty significant.
Air Seychelles flight bound for Tel Aviv diverts to Jeddah
Israel has come a long way in recent years when it comes to diplomatic relations with Gulf countries. While Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t yet have diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia did in 2022 open its airspace to all flights to and from Israel, including those operated by Israeli airlines, which is a big step in the right direction.
But what happens when a flight full of Israelis needs to divert due to a technical issue over Saudi Arabia? Well, we’ve just found out for the first time.
On Monday, August 28, 2023, Air Seychelles flight HM22 was scheduled to fly from Mahe (SEZ) to Tel Aviv (TLV). The 2,865-mile flight was operated by an Airbus A320neo with the registration code S7-VEV. The flight departed as planned, shortly after 5PM local time, and started its journey toward Israel.
Unfortunately while over the Red Sea, the plane encountered some electrical issues, with lights in the cabin flickering on and off, and a burning smell. As a result, the plane needed to divert. The closest major airport to the plane’s location was Jeddah (JED), so that’s where the plane diverted to.
There were at least 128 Israelis on the aircraft, including some Israeli security officials who were on vacation. They all ended up needing to spend the night in Saudi Arabia, given that the plane couldn’t be fixed right away.
Saudi Arabia provides hospitality, flight operates next day
One passenger on the flight shares with Times of Israel how nervous many passengers were at first, as they wondered if Air Seychelles fully understood the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel:
“We heard people saying Jeddah, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. And everyone was, like, ‘What? But we’re Israelis? How can Israelis land in Saudi Arabia?’ But we realized that, in the end, they did understand.”
Despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, by all accounts Saudi Arabia was very welcoming to passengers. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu even posted a video message thanking Saudi authorities for their “warm attitude” and “neighborliness.”
Passengers ended up spending a night in Jeddah, and the following day Air Seychelles dispatched a replacement aircraft (actually, its only other jet). Specifically, the Airbus A320neo with the registration code S7-PTI was dispatched from Dubai (DWC) to Jeddah (JED), and it landed there shortly before 10AM on Tuesday.
Then at around 11:30AM the aircraft operated from Jeddah to Tel Aviv, which is a remarkable route to see. That flight took 1hr47min, and passengers landed safely at around 1:30PM, roughly 15 hours behind schedule.
An Air Seychelles flight bound for Israel had to divert to Saudi Arabia due to a technical issue. This is the first time that an Israel-bound jet has ever had to divert to Saudi Arabia, so that’s a pretty major milestone. Passengers ended up having to spend the night in Saudi Arabia, and the following day flew on the first-ever passenger flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
How cool to see a positive story like this, including the warm hospitality. Here’s to hoping that Israel and Saudi Arabia can soon establish diplomatic relations.
What do you make of this Saudi Arabia diversion story?