According to sources in the Israeli flight industry, Saudi Arabia has granted Air India permission to operate direct flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv. This represents the first time the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allowed flights to Israel through their airspace. This will shorten travel from India by two-and-a-half hours, enabling the airline to reduce fuel costs and to sell tickets more cheaply.
For 70 years, Saudi airspace has been closed both to Israeli aircraft and to those of other nations on a flight-path to Israel. Air India’s New Delhi-Tel Aviv route is the first public sign of the warming relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic implications notwithstanding, Air India’s direct flights will create a competitive disadvantage for Israeli carrier El Al, as Air India will be able to operate flights that are much shorter and less expensive than El Al’s Mumbai service, which must detour around the Arabian peninsula.
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