Saudi skies are now open to flights to Israel

Air India denies 'any confirmation' for flights to Israel using Saudi Airspace

Yesterday, Air India launched the ticket sale for its inaugural Tel Aviv-New Delhi flight on a new route that uses Saudi Arabia's airspace.

The move by the Saudis would give Air India "a significant and unfair advantage" over El Al, Gonen Usishkin, the CEO of Israel's largest carrier, wrote in a letter, addressed to ICAO head, Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.

Flying through Saudi airspace will cut the Delhi-Tel Aviv journey time by about two hours, an Air India spokesman said.

Air India first announced its plan to operate direct flights to Tel Aviv over Saudi territory in February, prompting Israel's national carrier El Al to appeal to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for assistance in obtaining similar permission from Saudi Arabia.

"We have not received any confirmation". The inaugural flight is set for March 22.

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A spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority confirmed Air India has received permission to land at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, but could provide no further details.

In his January reciprocal visit to India, Netanyahu implied the route could pass over Saudi Arabia, which, beyond significantly shortening flight time, would be a public indication of a warming of ties with Israel.

The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years.

El Al has asked the Israeli government and global organizations to ensure that El Al will also be allowed to fly to India on the shorter route, or alternatively that Air India will be compelled to take the current route that El Al is permitted.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and India are parties to the convention.

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