An Air India spokesman and Israel’s Airports Authority said the state-run carrier had requested slots for three weekly flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. The Airports Authority said the service would begin in early March.
Air India had been planning to launch the route last year but abandoned the idea as uneconomical after Saudi Arabia refused to allow the flights to go over its territory, making a five hour flight into an eight hour flight.
However, the plan was revived after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last month. Air India will receive a 750,000 dollar grant from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism for opening the route.
Currently EL Al operates four weekly flights direct from Israel to India, It’s a 8-hour route from Israel to India.
Some Israeli media, in unsourced reports, said Riyadh had granted the necessary flyover rights, which would shorten the flight time from New Delhi by more than two hours.
But A spokesman for Saudi’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said the agency had not granted any permission to Air India.
If Saudi Arabia confirmed this move would be the first public recognition of its warming ties with Israel.
For seventy years, Saudi airspace has been closed and not only to Israeli aircraft (El Al), but to those of other nations with a flight-path to Israel.
In recent decades there have only been 2 flights, that we know of, which have flown directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel: the U.S. Air Force One bearing Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
It’s not rare to see the air-travel tracking websites private business jets flying from Saudi airports and other destinations in the Arabian Gulf toward Israel. However all these flights make a short stop-over in Jordan.