by WorldTribune Staff, February 9, 2018
Saudi Arabia is denying reports that it has lifted the 70-year-old ban on flights to Israel passing through Saudi airspace.
Several media reports on Feb. 7 said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to allow Air India to use Saudi airspace in its new flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, which begin on March 20.
A spokesman for the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation said that the Authority has not granted any permission to Air India, Al Arabiya television reported.
Air India said on Feb. 7 that it has proposed its flights to Tel Aviv pass through Saudi airspace, which would shorten the flight time from New Delhi by two hours.
Though Saudi Arabia does not officially recognize Israel, relations between the two have improved amid a shared concern over Iran’s influence in the region.
India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has forged a close relationship with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India last month, the first such trip by an Israeli leader in 15 years.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry also pledged 750,000 euros to Air India to fly the new route to Tel Aviv, The Jerusalem Post reported.
El Al Israel Airlines currently has four weekly flights to Mumbai. The flights, which take seven hours, avoid Saudi airspace by taking a route south toward Ethiopia and then east to India.