Air India could fly to Israel - through Saudi Arabia?

Israel and India reportedly discussing the possibility that Air India could fly over Saudi Arabia on its way to Israel and back.

Elad Benari ,

Air India flight
Air India flight

Israel and India are discussing the possibility that Air India, which will soon begin direct flights between Ben Gurion Airport and Delhi, will fly over Saudi Arabia on its way to Israel and back, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reports.

According to the report, India wants to fly directly over Saudi Arabia to shorten flight time and save fuel costs. If the Saudis agree to the move they could present it as a gesture to India rather than to Israel. Nevertheless, if Air India eventually ends up flying over Saudi Arabia, it would be an unprecedented move that would constitute a kind of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Such direct flights will shorten the flight time by two hours and significantly increase the number of tourists between Israel and India, noted Yediot Aharonot. Shortening the duration of the flight will lower the price of the ticket and increase the competition on the route to India.

Air India operated flights to Israel about 20 years ago, but stopped them because of the lack of economic feasibility. The company's new plan is to operate flights between Delhi and Ben Gurion Airport on Boeing 787s.

Currently, only El Al operates flights between the two countries. El Al’s flights are to Mumbai and the flight route from Ben-Gurion Airport crosses the Arava, continues through the Red Sea to the south of Yemen and then turns east towards India. The flight time on this route is about eight hours.

Sources in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's entourage confirmed to Yediot Aharonot that the issue was raised in the prime minister's talks in India.

There have been several reports in recent months which hinted that Saudi Arabia and Israel are getting closer.

One report claimed the Saudi government is weighing the possible normalization of relations with Israel ahead of a planned Middle East peace program by the Trump administration which aims to not only secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but lead to recognition of the Jewish state by the larger Arab world.

Another report implied that Saudi King Salman plans to step down and announce his son as his successor, and that once the Crown Prince becomes king, he would enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.

Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any ties with Israel, insisting that Israel must accept the so-called Saudi peace plan in order for the two countries to enjoy close ties.