Saudi Arabian flag carrier Saudia is suspending services to and from Toronto following a diplomatic spat with Canada.

Saudia operates the only nonstop air service between Saudi Arabia and Canada with its 4X-weekly Jeddah-Toronto sector, using a Boeing 787-9.

In a brief message on its website, the airline said the suspension of services would be effective Aug. 13. Passengers scheduled to travel after that date “will be provided with alternative flight reservations and arrangements.”

The move comes following the arrest of several civil rights activists by Saudi authorities, Reuters reported, particularly women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Although the man who effectively heads Saudi Arabia’s day-to-day government, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has embarked on a program of liberalizing the country’s economic and social landscape, all forms of political activism are still banned in the desert kingdom.

Last Friday, Canada’s foreign ministry posted a tweet, saying it was “gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”

The tweet created a furious reaction in Saudi Arabia, which recalled its ambassador from Ottawa for consultations, gave the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia 24 hours to leave the country and banned new trade with Canada. It called Canada’s actions “a blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols,” Reuters reported.

The move to halt flights to Toronto followed.  

There is no indication of when air services may resume.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com