Creating a world history, Air India’s Flight AI 139 flew to Israel’s capital Tel Aviv from Delhi and used the Saudi airspace – marking signs of improvement in ties between two rivals – Arab kingdom and the Jewish state.
Never before has any commercial passenger flight used Saudi Arabia’s airspace to reach Israel directly, ever before; until yesterday. On Thursday, Air India launched the first scheduled flight to Israel to be allowed to cross Saudi airspace. Air India’s Flight AI 139 direct 5-hour flight between Delhi to Tel Aviv, took off from Delhi, passed through Saudi Arabian airspace and land at Israeli capital Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport Thursday evening. To receive the historic flight was Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin and Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, who said, “This is a historic moment. It is the first time that there is an official connection between the state of Israel and Saudi Arabia, a new era has begun.”
The Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner overflew Saudi airspace at 40,000 feet for about three hours, coming within 60 km of the capital Riyadh. It is a big deal in diplomacy across the world as it formally ended a 70-year-old ban on planes flying to or from Israel through Saudi airspace. The permission wasn’t granted overnight as Saudi Arabia is the home to the holiest Islamic shrines and does not recognise Israel, but it did happen eventually. However, there is still no indication that it will be applied for any Israeli airline.
From now on, there will be three direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, every week– passing over Saudi airspace. Alongside being a historic flight, the new direct route is pretty shorter too – as, Delhi to Tel Aviv flights take around 7 hours and 40 minutes, following a Red Sea route that swings toward Ethiopia to avoid Saudi airspace. With the new route, the time is cut down to travel time between Israel and India by around two hours and would reduce ticket prices. Not only will it cut down the cost, but it will also help in saving fuel used by the airplanes; and will open up new tourism gates for India and Israel.