Saudi allows Air India overflights to Israel

Air India denies 'any confirmation' for flights to Israel using Saudi Airspace

India's national carrier has secured permission to begin direct flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv that will pass through Saudi airspace, as reported by AP news agency on Wednesday.

But the decision also signifies warmer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have been seen as having increasingly covert relations over the previous year.

But the historic animosity has given way to cautious, if often denied, cooperation based on a shared enmity towards Iran. Yesterday, Air India launched the ticket sale for its inaugural Tel Aviv-New Delhi flight on a new route that uses Saudi Arabia's airspace.

El Al flies to Mumbai four times a week, along a route over Ethiopia and then east to India that, by avoiding Saudi airspace, has a journey time of seven hours rather than five.

Last week, El Al sought help over the issue from industry lobby group the International Air Transport Association.

Air India had announced that it plans to start direct flights to Israel and has proposed to travel through closed Saudi airspace, a report in Al Arabiya English said.

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The Israeli carrier's CEO Gonen Usishkin has since engaged both IATA and ICAO to protest Riyadh's preferential treatment of Air India at El Al's expense.

El Al slammed what it termed a "discriminatory" move by Saudi authorities, in a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this week.

"I am requesting that the ICAO, which has the power to enforce the provisions of the Chicago Convention, take action ... to procure equal permission for El Al to fly above Saudi Arabia", Usishkin said.

Netanyahu recently visited India, complimenting Modi's visit to Israel, where the two hailed warming ties between the tiny Jewish state and the world's fastest growing major economy.

- Correction: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect title for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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