Netanyahu: Saudi okays Air India overflight rights for its Israel-routes

Air India's flight path between Tel Aviv and Mumbai circumventing Saudi airspace

Air India Signs Deal to Fly Over Saudi Arabia On Route To & From Tel Aviv

El Al Israel Airlines, which flies four weekly flights to Mumbai, has also expressed an interest in flying over Saudi airspace in order to reduce flight time, Arutz Sheva reported.

Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing in Washington on Monday after meeting US President Donald Trump, the Times of Israel reported.

In his January reciprocal visit to India, Netanyahu implied the route could pass over Saudi Arabia, which, beyond significantly shortening flight time, would be a public indication of a warming of ties with Israel.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, an Air India spokesperson reacting to Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement said, "We are yet to receive any communication from the Indian regulator". "Since their flights will now take longer and be more expensive, as the planes consume more fuel because they fly a longer, more circuitous route, he is in talks with the national carrier to ensure that it does not get hurt economically".

Air India has sought permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for thrice-a-week flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv.

The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years. However, the flights will still not be direct, per se, as the shortest route would fly over Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, countries with which Israel shares no ties or contacts, covert or otherwise.

There was no immediate confirmation of Monday's development from either Saudi officials or Air India. To avoid Saudi Arabia, it has to take a detour over the Red Sea and around the Arabian Peninsula - which lifts the total flight duration to around 8 hours.

The move is seen as a nod to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's influence in the region, who visited the occupied West Bank on February 10.

Air India said on Tuesday evening that it had so far not received any word from the Saudi authorities.

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