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Published: Thu, March 08, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Saudi skies are now open to flights to Israel

Saudi skies are now open to flights to Israel

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.

El Al flies to Mumbai four times a week, along a route over Ethiopia and then east to India that, by avoiding Saudi Arabia, has a journey time of seven hours rather than five.

The flight's shorter-than-usual haul is due to the fact that Air India received permission to fly over Saudi airspace.

Air India will launch a flight from Delhi to Israel's Tel Aviv nonstop from March 22.

However, following Netanyahu's statement, Air India declared it was still waiting for formal permission.

Jerusalem Post had reported that after his meeting with US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said that Air India signed an agreement that day enabling the flights to and from Israel over Saudi Arabia.

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

Now the only other airline to fly between the two countries is Israeli flag carrier El Al, which is forced to take an elongated route to avoid Saudi airspace.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had official diplomatic relations, and interactions between their governments have taken place only through back channels.

He demanded that the ICAO help "procure equal permission for El Al to fly above Saudi Arabia".

There has also been speculation in recent months that the two counties have been engaging covertly in sharing intelligence regarding their mutual arch-rival Iran. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied all ties.

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