Saudi Airlines plane (file)
Saudi Airlines plane (file)Thinkstock

Saudi Arabia's flagship carrier has cancelled its contract with a Portuguese air company over an unauthorized emergency landing in Israel sparked a social media frenzy, the official Saudi Press Agency said Sunday. 

The Saudi Arabian Airlines plane, an Airbus A330-300 which was empty of passengers at the time, landed earlier this month overnight at Ben-Gurion airport in Lod to perform emergency maintenance, despite the formal lack of a diplomatic relationship between Riyadh and Jerusalem. No passengers were on board. 

Saudi authorities determined that the plane had been subcontracted by the Hi Fly company, whose contract has now been revoked. 

“The company had been given a contract for air transport to provide Saudia with planes for commercial operations,” it insisted in a statement over the issue. “The plane was off duty and under the management of the holding company at the time when it left Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 3, for Brussels, Belgium, for routine maintenance.”

According to the contract, Hi Fly was obligated to contact Saudi Arabian Airlines for approval before any emergency landing or routine maintenance stop. 

“Such landing or operation process should take place in a country that shares diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enable Saudia staff and the Civil Aviation authority to conduct inspection and follow up on the maintenance operation at any time,” the contract states, according to Arab News

Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airlines are the only Middle Eastern flagship carrier currently operating to and from Ben-Gurion airport.