Air India may resume direct flights to Israel

Air India is reportedly considering direct flights to Israel, flying via Saudi Arabia and reducing flight time.

By: Margot Dudkevitch, World Israel News

With all eyes on India, where Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to boost ties between the two countries during his state visit there, talks are underway to secure a deal that will see Air India resume direct flights from Israel, and fly over Saudi Arabia.

If the Saudis agree, the duration of the flight will be cut by almost two hours, slashing costs on fuel and seeing a significant increase in the number of tourists that fly between the two countries. The new route would also allow the airline to reduce the price of flight tickets.

The change will also symbolize another step in the direction of normalizing ties between Israel and the Sunni Kingdom. If the Saudis approves the move, it will likely be presented to the Indian government as a gesture and not directly to Israel who has no formal diplomatic ties with Riyadh, Ynet said.

Currently, Israel’s national carrier El Al has direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai but is forced to use a longer route that adds to the flight duration. Two decades ago Air India announced it was suspending direct flights from Israel due to spiraling fuel costs and lack of profitability.

Officials in the delegation accompanying Netanyahu on his six day visit, said the issue was raised during conversations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They also noted that the two leaders inked agreements concerning aviation, security and other issues aimed at boosting cooperation between the two countries.

At a press briefing Netanyahu was quoted saying “the upgrading of direct aviation routes will encourage the movement of investors, tourists, students and entrepreneurs.”