Saudi Arabia allows Air India to use its skies for flights to Tel Aviv
New Delhi:Saudi Arabia has allowed Air India to use its airspace for flights between Delhi and Tel Aviv, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
However, a spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation was quoted in another media report denying that any such permission was granted to Air India.
It could not be confirmed from either the ministry of civil aviation here or Air India, whether the national carrier has been given right to use Saudi airspace for flight to Tel Aviv.
According to a spokesperson of the airline, the national carrier has sought permission from regulatory body DGCA for thrice-a-week flight services between Delhi and Tel Aviv from March, which is awaited.
Another Air India official said the airline is also waiting for slots at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to that country.
According to the official, an approval from Saudi Arabia to use its airspace will allow Air India to take a shorter route by flying over Ahmedabad, Muscat, Saudi Arabia and then land at Tel Aviv.
This route will lead to a shorter flight duration between the two cities by two and a half hours and save fuel costs, the official said.
As of now, Israel’s El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai take a seven-hour circuitous route and fly over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enter India and avoid countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Due to route overflying issues Air India was earlier also examining the possibility of operating flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv.
Israel’s tourism ministry has announced a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for flight operations.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is on her maiden visit to Saudi Arabia. She arrived in Riyadh.