Air India Confirms Direct Delhi-Tel Aviv Route Over Saudi Airspace
Written by TPS on March 07, 2018
Air India will launch its Delhi-Tel Aviv route flying over Saudi airspace on March 22, the Times of India reported Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation over whether Saudi Arabia would allow flights to Israel to pass over its territory.
The Air India flight will be the first commercial flight to overfly Saudi airspace on its way to and from Israel and will cut flight time by 2-3 hours compared with the coute taken by Israel’s national carrier El Al for its Tel Aviv-Mumbai flight.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and despite reports of covert ties, the airlines of both countries do not fly in each other’s airspace.
The Times of India quoted an Air India official as saying the flight would reach Tel Aviv in just over seven hours. “The flight will leave at 4.50 pm and reach Israel at 8.25 pm [local times]. It will leave Tel Aviv for Delhi two hours later,” the official said.
The flight will leave Delhi three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and will be operated on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
El Al’s flight has to avoid several countries in the direct flight path as they do not recognize Israel, resulting in a longer route, more fuel burn and higher prices. Last week, the company El Al appealed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to intervene to gain Israeli airlines access to Saudi airspace.
The TOI report noted that when Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from Delhi to Tel Aviv last July, his Air India One flight also took the longer route to Israel.
However last May, United State’s President Donald Trump’s Air Force One became the first plane to fly direct from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tweeted following that flight: “Mr. President (Trump), you just flew from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. I hope one day an Israeli prime minister will be able to fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh.”
Come March 22, if the prime minister chooses to fly Air India, he will be able to do just that.