Historic: Flight to Israel Traverses Saudi Air Space, Cuts 2 Hours of Flying Time, Ends 70 Year Ban

The inauguration today of Air India’s new route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv marked a historic event, one not seen in 70 years! Air India 139 departed from New Delhi and arrived in Tel Aviv just 7.5 hours later thanks to a diplomatic shift from the Saudis – it’s the first time the country has opened its airspace for a commercial flight heading to Israel. The flight time would have been over two hours longer had the airspace restrictions remained in place.

“This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in a radio interview

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has had a 70 year ban on planes flying to / from Israel entering its airspace. Reuters reports on the routing:

The Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner entered Saudi airspace at around 1645 GMT and overflew the kingdom at 40,000 feet for about three hours, coming within 60 km (37 miles) of the capital Riyadh, according to the Flightradar monitoring app. It then crossed over Jordan and the occupied West Bank into Israel. The airliner had earlier flown over Oman, according to Flightradar. Officials from Oman, which also does not recognize Israel, could not be reached for comment.

The courtesy has not been extended to any other airlines thus far and Israel flag carrier El Al says it gives Air India an unfair advantage.  El Al currently only operates flights to Mumbai, but they say a flight to New Delhi would take 9 hours and 40 minutes, with two hours more flying time than the Air India flight as they are forced to route via the Red Sea and a swing toward Ethiopia.

Apparently Singapore and the Philippines are looking to negotiate similar air space rights.

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