Air India granted Saudi transit rights for Israel route

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For the first time ever, an worldwide airline can use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel.

On Monday, Reuters reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on a state visit to Washington, D.C., said at a press event that Saudi Arabia had permitted Air India to fly over its territory on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv.

El Al believes that Air India's new route represents a precedent that provides foreign carriers with a major advantage and prevents equal and fair competition.

Flying through Saudi airspace will cut the Delhi-Tel Aviv journey time by about two hours, an Air India spokesman said.

On Wednesday, Air India announced that it has been granted permission to use Saudi Arabian airspace for direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, which it plans to begin operating three times weekly, later in March.

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In January, Israeli daily Haaretz said that Saudi authorities had allowed the Indian flag carrier to hold direct flights to Israel through Saudi airspace for the first time.

"It is for the them to decide on our request, but we haven't yet received any communication about it from the regulator". The first flight is scheduled to take off on March 22, and roundtrip ticket prices start at $710. "We have yet to receive anything from authorities", Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told i24NEWS on Tuesday.

The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years.

"The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power are the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened", Mahjoob Zweiri, an associate professor in the Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University, had previously told Al Jazeera.

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