New Delhi, Mar 6: Saudi Arabia has granted Air India permission to use its airspace for its new routes to and from Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing in Washington to Israeli reporters after he had met US President Donald Trump. Israel’s tourism ministry has announced a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for flight operations.
However, an official confirmation from either Saudi officials or Air India is awaited. Earlier, the national carrier has sought permission from regulatory body General Authority of Civil Aviation in Riyadh for thrice-a-week flight services between Delhi and Tel Aviv but permission was not granted to the carrier, as reported by Reuters.
Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to the Jewish country. But lifting its 70-year-old air ban is reflecting change in the ties. According to the official, an approval from Saudi Arabia to use its airspace will allow Air India to take a shorter route by flying over Ahmedabad, Muscat, Saudi Arabia and then land at Tel Aviv.
The route will shorter flight duration between two places by two and half an hour and save fuel costs a lot. At present, Israel’s El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai take a seven-hour circuitous route and fly over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enter India and avoid countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced new flight service connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv when he visited Israel last year. Air India had earlier announced to start direct flight between Delhi and Tel Aviv. The flight service was to start in May but the launch was delayed as several countries, which fall in the selected route, denied the overflight permission. Air India used to operate directs flights to Israel from Delhi until mid-1990s and Mumbai until early 2000. The flights were withdrawn for commercial reasons.