Air India gets Saudi nod, says Israel

Saul Bowman
March 7, 2018

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

Saudi Arabia has granted Air India permission to use its airspace for its new routes to and from Tel Aviv. Israel's tourism ministry has announced a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for flight operations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed protocol between India and Israel on Amendments to the Air Transport Agreement that envisages entering into cooperative marketing arrangements, such as code share, bloc space or any other JV agreement for the goal of operating the agreed services on the specified routes. According to a statement by the Israel prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this path-breaking agreement was signed today between Saudi Arabia and Air India.

"It is for them to decide on our request, but we haven't yet received any communication about it from the regulator". Being able to use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel would also allow the national carrier to cut down on costs.

Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to the Jewish country.

The move is seen as a nod to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's influence in the region, who visited the occupied West Bank on February 10.

Other flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai are the four weekly flights by El Al Israel that takes seven hours to complete its journey, as it must head south over Ethiopia and then east towards India. Last year, he became the first Indian premier to go to Israel on an official state visit.

If Saudi Arabia were to ease its airspace regulations it could be seen as concrete evidence of warming relations with Israel and a broader re-configuring of regional alliances.

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