The flag carrier airline of India, Air India’s inaugural flight AI 139 to Tel Aviv, Israel took off from New Delhi on Thursday 6 PM, heralding a new chapter in the India-Israel ties and ending a decades-old overfly ban by Saudi Arabia Airspace.
The 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner ‘VT-ANX’ overflies Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states, countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.
Saudi Arabia’s CAA decision to permit Air India to use its airspace has enabled the airline to take a shorter route. The desired air route will cover the distance in 7.25 hours, meanwhile 2.10 hours less than the time taken by the only other airline that flies between the two countries. Many Arabs and Islamic nations do not recognize Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to that country. The new route would also reduce its fuel costs and sell cheaper tickets to passengers, Air India officials stated.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Israel considers the new route important, noting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the matter of the route with his counterpart, Narendra Modi, when the two met in July in Israel and the following January in India. The ministry said the Delhi-Tel Aviv direct flight is expected to boost tourism in both the countries, besides taking the diplomatic relations to a new level.
The flight will operate every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. While the inaugural flight AI 139 left at 6 pm today, the schedule departure will be 4.50 pm from March 25 when the summer schedule comes into operation. The Airline have an over flight permit to Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to reach Israel.
El Al Israel Airlines flies four weekly flights to Mumbai, but these take seven hours rather than five as they fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace.