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Business news, 05.09.2006 12:17

Direct flights between Russia, Saudi to open in November

arabian_airlines Aeroflot Russian Airlines said Monday that it would start flying direct to Saudi Arabia in November.

Passengers currently have to make a connection in other Arab or Asian countries, or even fly via Europe, but Valery Okulov, the director general of Russia's national air carrier, said an agreement on direct flights between Russia and Saudi Arabia had been approved Sunday.

"Starting in winter, or more specifically this November, we will launch flights between Moscow, Mineralnye Vody and Jeddah," Okulov told the two-day Russian-Arab Business Council in St. Petersburg, which opened Monday.

Mineralnye Vody is one of the main airports in Russia's North Caucasus, which has a predominantly Muslim population, and will act as a gateway to Jeddah, only 45 miles from Mecca in the east of Saudi Arabia. Millions of Muslim pilgrims arrive in the holy city from all over the world every year for the Hajj festival.

Okulov said the route was designed both for businessmen and Muslim pilgrims.

"During the Hajj, we will increase the number of flights and make them daily," Okulov said, adding that normally the flights would run twice a week.

Okulov heralded the agreement, saying "It is a breakthrough decision because until now, Russia and Saudi Arabia had no [direct] air routes at all."

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