In a historic first, Saudi Arabia has given Air India the permission to fly through its airspace to reach Israel, the Jewish nation’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.
Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing in Washington to Israeli reporters after holding talks with US President Donald Trump.
Currently, flights between Israel and other nations have to take routes avoiding Saudi airspace as it does not recognise Israel. The only flight between Tel Aviv and Mumbai goes over the red sea and takes eight hours to reach India. This time will be cut down by two and a half hours following the approval by Saudi Arabia.
Air India will now have a much shorter and economically viable route to operate flights between Mumbai and Tel Aviv.
In the past, Air Force One carrying US Presidents was the only aircraft that was allowed to fly directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
Discussions for the flight were intensified following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India earlier this year. The permission granted to Air India comes both as an affirmation of the changing relationship between Israeli and Saudi leadership as well as Indian increasing influence in the region.
Saudi Arabia had previously denied reports in the Israeli media of the Kingdom granting Air India to use its airspace for flights to Tel Aviv.