El Al petitions High Court over direct India flights

“The Israeli government has signed an unprecedented agreement that does not allow its airline the same opportunities as Air India,” El Al stated.

By: Mara Vigevani, TPS

Israel’s national carrier El Al said Wednesday it petitioned to the High Court of Justice asking that it block Air India from flying to Israel over Saudi Arabia, as long as Israeli airlines are not allowed to fly over the territory of the kingdom.

“El Al is currently petitioning the High Court of Justice regarding the permit to fly to India over Saudi Arabia,” El Al Chairman Eli Dafes and CEO Gonen Usishkin said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

Last week, Air India began operating a direct New Delhi – Tel Aviv route that flies over Saudi Arabia’s airspace. The Air India flight was the first commercial flight to overfly Saudi airspace on its way to and from Israel and cut flight time by 2-3 hours compared with the route taken by El Al. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to see direct Mumbai-Tel Aviv flights in the near future. A direct Mumbai-Tel Aviv route would take only five hours.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel, and despite reports of covert ties, the airlines of both countries do not fly in each other’s airspace.

El Al’s flight has to avoid several countries in the direct flight path as they do not recognize Israel, resulting in a longer route, more fuel burn and higher prices.

“There is no chance of competing with these conditions and the government has created inequality and discrimination. The Israeli government has signed an unprecedented agreement that does not allow its airline the same opportunities as Air India,” Davis said, referring to the principle of equal opportunities between Israeli airlines and foreign companies on a competitive basis to which the government had committed when it privatized El Al in 1994.

El Al has also appealed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to intervene to gain Israeli airlines access to Saudi airspace.