India’s state-run carrier Air India said March 16 it will fly over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv, a move that ends a decades-long Saudi ban on the use of its airspace for flights to Israel.
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“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 Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu first suggesting in January the route could pass over Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh has no official ties with Tel Aviv, 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.
Riyadh has maintained public silence on Israeli hints of covert ties with the kingdom.