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 here today, a move which would slash travel time between the two cities by two and a half hours.
The competition from Air India is likely to bite into El Al's profits unless Saudi Arabia is willing to extend the same privilege to the Israeli carrier as well.
Air India has sought permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for thrice-a-week flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv. Reports suggest that the two nations have been working toward that goal, as they share strong concern over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
There was no immediate confirmation of this from Riyadh or Air India.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday claimed that Saudi Arabia had approved flights by Air India, the national airline in India, to cross over Saudi airspace, but were shifty denied by Air India officials.
The new Israel-India route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Israel in July. "We are in the process of launching direct flights to Tel Aviv. and have applied" for the permission, he said. After being able to fly over Saudi airspace to fly to Israel would also allow the national carrier to cut down their costs.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu said in Washington that Saudi Arabian authorities have not granted overflight approval to El Al, which operates four weekly flights to Mumbai.
In the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced new flight service connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv when he visited Israel a year ago.