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

10 March, 2018, 01:25 | Author: Barbara Daniel
  • Air India Express Vistara Spice Jet and Air India are among the airlines whose flights will feature an all-women crew on Thursday to celebrate International Women’s Day

The official announcement from Air India comes days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters during his visit to the USA that Saudi Arabia had given permission to the Indian carrier for flying over its territory on its route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv.

The statement came hours after Netanyahu revealed that an agreement had been reached during a briefing with Israeli reporters in Washington DC shortly after his meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Israel and India have seen a surge in cooperation under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

But until Tuesday, March 7, an Air India spokesperson maintained that "we haven't yet received any communication about it from the regulator". An Air India spokesman estimated the time savings would be about two hours, according to Reuters.

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. It will depart from New Delhi at 4:50 pm and arrive in Tel Aviv at 8:25 pm. The inaugural flight is set for March 22.

For 70 years, Saudi airspace has remained closed to Israeli aircraft and to all flights bound for the self-proclaimed Jewish state. While it is no secret that private jets can fly from Saudi and other Gulf airports to Israel, they could not use the direct route and had to make a stopover in Amman airport first.

The Israeli carrier's CEO Gonen Usishkin has since engaged both IATA and ICAO to protest Riyadh's preferential treatment of Air India at El Al's expense.

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.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, like much of the Arab world.

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