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First India-Israel flight over Saudi airspace angers El Al

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As Saudi Arabia opens its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel, Israel’s national carrier will take its own fight for access to Saudi airspace to the Supreme Court in Israel, according to officials.

India’s national carrier Air India is now reportedly offering three direct flights a week between New Delhi and Tel Aviv through Saudi Arabia’s airspace, effectively ending a 70-year Saudi ban on the use of its airspace for Israel-bound flights.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and flag carrier El Al must take a more circuitous path to avoid Saudi Arabia, which adds hours to flight times.

While a spokeswoman for El Al confirmed the company intended to bring its complaint to the Israeli Supreme Court, Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transport minister, welcomed the direct route breakthrough.

“The first direct flight to Israel through Saudi airspace reflects the positive change that is gradually taking place in the region,” Katz tweeted on Friday morning.

“I hope that Israeli airlines like El Al (Israel’s flagship carrier) will be allowed to use this route in the future.”

The court appeal will come early next week, according to one source familiar with the matter.

On more than one occasion, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has claimed that Israel’s relations with the Arab world are now better than ever.

However, the Saudi government, for its part, has not officially commented on the development.

The new air route between Israel and India was announced by Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister, during a visit to Israel last summer.

During a January visit to India, Netanyahu asserted that the new air route over Saudi territory would drastically reduce flight time.

[Source: Al Jazeera]
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