Air India has been allowed by Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory on its new route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an unprecedented move which would reduce travel time between the two cities by two and a half hours.
India's national carrier Air India is scheduled to begin its direct flight between New Delhi and Tel Aviv in few weeks from now. Interacting with reporters after his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Netanyahu said that Air India has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia over the matter.
"Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia," Netanyahu said. So far Saudi Arabia has not allowed planes from any country to fly over it and go to Israel.
Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, but it was reported that the two nations have been working covertly on their shared security concerns over Iran after the 2015 nuclear accord, which both governments strongly opposed.
Such a permission by Saudi Arabia would reduce the air travel time from New Delhi to Tel Aviv by Air India from about eight hours to five and a half hours, Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said that as a result of the short travel of Air India, the Israeli national carrier El Al would be at disadvantage both in terms of cost and travel time. He said he is in talks with the national carrier so that it is not hurt economically.
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."
Air India has sought permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for a thrice-a-week flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv. Israel's Ministry of Tourism will approve a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air to launch the flight service, an official said in Jerusalem last month.