First Israeli commercial flight crosses Omani skies

Just days after Oman announces it will permit Israeli flights through its airspace, El Al plane becomes the first Israeli commercial flight to fly over Oman.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

An El Al plane flying from Tel Aviv to Bangkok on Sunday night became the first Israeli commercial flight to cross through Omani airspace.

Oman announced on Thursday that it was permitting Israeli overflights, opening up new and faster aviation routes between Israel and destinations farther east, particularly India, China, the Philippines and Australia.

Saudi Arabia began permitting Israeli overflights in August, but direct flights could not pass through the skies of Oman.

El Al flight 81 took seven hours and eight minutes, about two and a half hours shorter than usual for flights between Ben-Gurion International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport.

In a video posted on a social media, the El Al pilots in the cockpit preparing the plane praised what they called a “historic flight.”

“We will fly over the Arabian Peninsula, over Oman, the Israeli flag will fly over Oman for the first time. Our flight will become shorter by two and a half hours, which is very significant. We are launching the fast line to Bangkok and to the Far East in general. We are very happy and excited to be here,” the pilots said.

The CEO of El Al, Dina Ben Tal Gnansia, said, “El Al is proud to be the first company to connect Israel to the east through the countries of the Arabian Peninsula and to carry the Israeli flag on the tail of its plane, above the skies of these countries. This is an unprecedentedly important achievement, which allows us to provide a better flight experience to our customers, along with the best service.”

Arkia, a passenger airline, and the cargo carrier Challenge Airlines, which are also Israeli, will also begin overflying Oman.

Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations with Oman or Saudi Arabia.

In 1996, Israel and Oman signed an agreement to open reciprocal trade representative offices. Relations were frozen in 2000 with the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said hosted Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1994, 1996 and 2018 respectively.

Efforts to advance Israeli-Omani relations suffered a setback when Sultan Qaboos died in 2020. Israelis hoped he would join the Abraham Accords.