Air India to fly over Saudi airspace to Israel

India's state-run carrier says its flights over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv will begin March 22.

Ben Ariel, Canada,

Air India
Air India

India's state-run carrier Air India confirmed on Friday it will fly over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv beginning later this month, a move that ends a decades-long Saudi ban on the use of its airspace for flights to Israel.

"The Air India flights to Israel will start from March 22. The flights will take around seven hours and five minutes, and fly over... Saudi airspace," airline spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told AFP.

The new route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last July, with Netanyahu first suggesting in January the route could pass over Saudi Arabia.

Air India confirmed last week it has received permission to fly over Saudi Arabia during flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

Saudi Arabia has no official ties with Israel, with Israel's national carrier El Al currently taking a detour over the Red Sea on its India service to avoid Saudi and Iranian airspace.

Netanyahu told reporters in Washington earlier this month that Air India had reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia for the route.

The airline's spokesman at the time confirmed the launch schedule for a thrice-a-week service from New Delhi to Tel Aviv but couldn't confirm the exact route.

Flying over Saudi Arabia significantly shortens the flight time over the proposed route. El Al, which flies four weekly flights to Mumbai has also expressed an interest in flying over Saudi airspace in order to reduce flight time.

The move is believed to reflect growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, although Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any ties with Israel.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)