Saudi Arabia began allowing domestic flights to operate at full capacity on Wednesday instead of limiting the number of available seats as a COVID-19 precautionary measures, according to the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).
Flights in the Kingdom resumed in May, but GACA had said at the time that all middle seats must remain empty to maintain social distancing measures between passengers.
The authority urged passengers to wear face masks throughout their flights and to disinfect their hands regularly.
Domestic tourism has become increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia in the past year, as the pandemic forced the Kingdom to halt international flights and ban travel for several months at a time.
Despite the resumption of international flights, many Saudi nationals have opted to travel around the country instead.
Saudia Airlines bans unvaccinated passengers
The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudia Airlines, banned all unvaccinated passengers from domestic flights starting from September 1.
Only passengers who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to fly on the airline, according to an official statement.
The rule does not apply to children under 12 years old or people who are exempt from taking the vaccine for health reasons, the airline said in a statement last week.
On August 24, Saudi Arabia announced that it would be lifting the travel ban on expatriate residents from 20 countries.
The Kingdom had prohibited the entry of residents from 20 countries in February as part of efforts to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.
Residents who received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine before they left the country will be allowed to return, GACA said.
The 20 countries include: The United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Argentina, Germany, the US, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, the Republic of South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Japan.
Saudi Arabia’s COVID figures
More than 37 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered across the Kingdom, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.
Over 587 inoculation centers have been set up across the country to ensure that all citizens and residents have access to COVID-19 vaccines, the ministry added.
A total of 544,449 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia since the start of the outbreak, according to the ministry. Authorities have recorded 8,545 virus-related deaths so far.