Air India Launches Direct Five-Hour Flights Between Delhi and Tel Aviv

Airplane

For the first time ever, an global airline can use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel.

The permission for Air India to fly over Saudi Arabia will likely be seen as a major breakthrough, cutting hours off direct flights between India and Israel.

"Air India will gain a significant and unfair advantage over El Al with respect to flights between Israel and India", CEO Gonen Usishkin said in the letter.

On Wednesday, Air India announced that it has been granted permission to use Saudi Arabian airspace for direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, which it plans to begin operating three times weekly, later in March.

"We have not received any confirmation". An Air India spokesman estimated the time savings would be about two hours, according to Reuters.

Speaking to reporters accompanying him in Washington on Monday, Netanyahu said that Air India had reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to use their airspace.

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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.

Air India is charging about $700 return fare for its new Tel Aviv - Delhi route. The first flight is scheduled to take off on March 22, and roundtrip ticket prices start at $710.

For 70 years, Saudi airspace has remained closed to Israeli aircraft and to all flights bound for the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

The Air India flights will save flying time due to their shorter route.

This has been credited to the shakeup of Saudi domestic and foreign policy, spearheaded by the young and ambitious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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