A first: Air India flies to Israel, crossing over Saudi Arabia

Air India launched a direct flight to Tel Aviv Thursday, flying over Saudi airspace and ending a decades-long ban on Israeli commercial flights over its territory.

By: World Israel News Staff

Air India launched its direct flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, flying over Saudi Arabian airspace and shortening flight time considerably from the circuitous route Israel’s El-Al has been forced to take.

The inaugural flight took off from New Delhi at 12:30 p.m. GMT and landed in Tel Aviv at 7:45 p.m. GMT, or 9:45 p.m. local time, AFP reported.

“We will be flying non-stop from New Delhi to Tel Aviv from March 22 over Saudi airspace,” Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told AFP. There will now be three flights weekly in each direction, ending a decades-long ban by the Kingdom on commercial flights to and from the Jewish state.

Another first this week was an official visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the US. Reports over the past year indicate a warming of ties between Saudi Arabia and the US as well as Israel, seemingly a result of the Iranian threat.

Recent efforts by Israel’s Tourism Ministry included a grant for marketing the new New Delhi-Tel Aviv route, the opening of an Israel Government Tourist Office in India and dedicated campaigns that resulted in a steady increase in the numbers of tourists from India.

“I am pleased that the great efforts we made with Air India over the last two years are bearing fruit and a direct route from New Delhi to Israel has now opened,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levine stated. “The new route will contribute to an increase in tourist traffic from India, which is enjoying significant upward momentum. The opening of the route is part of the marketing revolution that I am leading in the ministry, that has brought record numbers of incoming tourists to Israel.”