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Saudi Arabia to open airspace to Israel-India flights

Saudi Arabia to open airspace to Israel-India flights

There was no immediate confirmation from either Saudi officials or Air India.

In an unprecedented and historic move, Saudi Arabia will provide full access to its airspace for Star Alliance member Air India, on its commercial flight to Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Monday that an airline flying to Tel Aviv has been granted access to Saudi Arabia's airspace.

Netanyahu said that as a result of the short travel of Air India, the Israeli national carrier El Al would be at disadvantage both in terms of cost and travel time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed protocol between India and Israel on Amendments to the Air Transport Agreement that envisages entering into cooperative marketing arrangements, such as code share, bloc space or any other JV agreement for the objective of operating the agreed services on the specified routes.

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. To avoid Saudi Arabia, it has to take a detour over the Red Sea and around the Arabian Peninsula - which lifts the total flight duration to around 8 hours.

Air India has not published when it would begin its flights to Tel Aviv, with media speculating they are due to start later in March.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom.

The new Israel-India route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Israel in July.

"Air India signed an agreement to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia", he said, emphasizing that the flights to and from Mumbai would consume the same time as flights between London and Tel Aviv - about five-and-a-half hours.


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