First-ever Israel-bound flight to enter Saudi Arabian airspace

In first, Air India flight passes over Saudi Arabia. Flight seen as sign of warming ties between Israel and the Arab world.

Tzvi Lev,

Boeing airplane
Boeing airplane
Thinkstock

The first-ever flight to Israel over Saudi Arabian airspace departed on Thursday evening, marking the first time an Israel-bound flight flew over the kingdom, which does not recognize Israel's existence.

The Tel Aviv-bound flight first entered Saudi Arabian airspace at 16:00 Israeli time.

As Saudi Arabia officially does not recognize the Jewish state, all planes flying to and from Israel were banned from flying through Saudi Arabian airspace, adding hours to each flight from Asia and increasing fuel costs.

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 had received permission to fly over Saudi Arabia during flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

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

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

Israel has long viewed the possibility of flying over Saudi Arabia as a distant dream. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama was curtly rebuffed when he lobbied Saudi Arabia to allow Israeli passenger planes to cross its airspace in exchange for a settlement freeze.




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