Benjamin Netanyahu says Saudi Arabia to open airspace to India-Israel flights

An Air India Boeing 787

An Air India Boeing 787

For the first time ever, an global airline can use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel.

Air India will introduce thrice-a-week flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv from March 22, the airline said on Wednesday.

The Israeli flag carrier's CEO, Gonen Usishkin, said in a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations body, it would be discriminatory for the Saudis to allow Air India to enter its airspace and not El Al.

Air India first announced its plan to operate direct flights to Tel Aviv over Saudi territory in February, prompting Israel's national carrier El Al to appeal to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for assistance in obtaining similar permission from Saudi Arabia.

Israel and India have seen a surge in cooperation under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"We have not received any confirmation. We have yet to receive anything from authorities", Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told i24NEWS on Tuesday.

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Netanyahu had told reporters that Saudi Arabia has given Air India approval to fly through its airspace on flights between Israel and India.

Air India is charging about $700 return fare for its new Tel Aviv - Delhi route.

The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years.

The airline has reportedly objected to the Air India route, saying the shorter flights over Saudi Arabia put it at an unfair disadvantage.

This has been credited to the shakeup of Saudi domestic and foreign policy, spearheaded by the young and ambitious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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