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Breakthrough for Israel as route crosses Saudi airspace

March 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel – a breakthrough that has made possible a new Air India route between New Delhi and Israel’s main airport.

The new route is now in operation, with two flights last week and a third one yesterday. Israeli tourism authorities hope the flights herald a new Saudi attitude that will make cheaper and faster flights to Israel possible.

Flight AI 139, operated by a B787-8 Dreamliner, landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport after spending seven and a half hours on the journey, about two hours less than it would have taken without crossing Saudi airspace.

Britain’s Independent quoted Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin saying the achievement followed “two years of very, very intensive work”.

Saudi Arabia, along with some other Arab and Muslim states, does not recognise Israel. Overflights through Saudi airspace to or from the Jewish state have been banned since the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.

According to flight tracking sites, the Air India flight path heads over Oman (which also doesn’t recognise Israel), traverses virtually the whole length of Saudi Arabia, comes within about 40 miles of the Saudi capital Riyadh, then crosses into Jordanian airspace, flies over the occupied West Bank and into Israel.

The first flight received a water cannon salute upon landing.

According to the Independent, Israel’s flag carrier El Al, still excluded from the Saudi route, now says its Indian competitor has gained an unfair advantage.

Written by Peter Needham

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