Published: Thu, March 08, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Air India route gets Saudi overflight okay, Israeli PM says

Air India route gets Saudi overflight okay, Israeli PM says

Israel's national carrier El Al now operates an India service that takes a detour over the Red Sea to avoid flying over Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Netanyahu made the announcement in Washington after his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday claimed that Saudi Arabia had approved flights by Air India, the national airline in India, to cross over Saudi airspace, but were shifty denied by Air India officials.

"It is for them to decide on our request, but we haven't yet received any communication about it from the regulator".

"We have applied for the route with (India's) directorate general of civil aviation", a spokesman said.

There was no immediate confirmation from either Saudi officials or Air India.

Saudi Arabia officially does not recognize the existence of Israel, and all planes flying from Israel to India and returning, are banned from flying through Saudi Arabian airspace.

If approved, it would be the first time Saudi Arabia allows commercial flights to fly to Israel to use its airspace and would signal a significant shift in policy that has shaped the region for decades. Reports suggest that the two nations have been working toward that goal, as they share strong concern over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Saudi officials or Air India are yet to officially confirm the development, which would cut down the flight time between India and Israel by around two-and-a-half hours.

At present, Israel's flag carrier El Al is the only airline offering direct flights between Israel and India on the Tel Aviv-Mumbai route.

For the first time, Saudi Arabia grants permission for Air India flights headed to Israel to use its airspace.

In the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced new flight service connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv when he visited Israel previous year.

Netanyahu, who visited India in January, acknowledged the agreement could hurt El Al.

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