Benjamin Netanyahu says Saudi Arabia to open airspace to India-Israel flights

Posted March 08, 2018

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 denied Mr. Netanyahu's claim.

Air India's website showed options to book flights to Tel Aviv from New Delhi starting March 22, with fares starting at 24,124 Indian rupees ($371.94).

Confirming weeks of speculation, the prime minister added that the flight would now take as long as the journey from Tel Aviv to London. Interacting with reporters after his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Netanyahu said that Air India has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to use its air space.

A spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority confirmed Air India has received permission to land at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, but could provide no further details.

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"I am requesting that the ICAO, which has the power to enforce the provisions of the Chicago Convention, take procure equal permission for El Al to fly above Saudi Arabia", Usishkin said.

Finally, the Saudi authorities, ending a 70-year ban and marking a dramatic diplomatic shift, have allowed the flight to overfly Saudi airspace.

El Al has asked an airline industry lobby group to help it access Saudi Arabian airspace, so it can compete with Air India's planned route between India and Israel, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The letter to the ICAO adds that this situation, "clearly violates the basic principle of reciprocity and equality as recognized in the worldwide civil aviation industry" and "violates the provision of the Convention on global Civil Aviation".