India’s national airline, Air India, yesterday completed its first flight between New Delhi and Tel Aviv flying through Saudi Arabian airspace.
The flight took off at 6:00pm local time and arrived at Tel Aviv international airport at 9.45pm local time. The flight passed over Saudi Arabia and was the first-ever commercial flight to Israel that has flown over Saudi airspace. Air India Chairman Pradeep Singh Kharola and the Director of Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) Hassan Madah were present at the inauguration ceremony.
“The opening of the route from India and the flight via Saudi Arabia is a historic event,” said Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin. “I am glad that the great pains we took with Air India over the past two years have borne fruit, and a direct air route from Delhi to Israel has been opened. These efforts included hosting company executives in Israel. The new route will contribute to increasing passenger traffic from India, which is making consistent progress,” Levin said.
According to Ministry of Tourism, the number of Indian tourists visiting Israel has been increasing for some time. 58,000 tourists from India visited Israel in 2017, compared with 44,500 in 2016, 39,300 in 2015 and 34,600 in 2014.
Israel’s national airline, El Al, operates direct flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai, taking seven hours rather than five as they fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace. The new Air India route over Saudi Arabia is two hours shorter. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes the new route will likely lead to lower fares and increased investment and tourism from India to Israel.
The Israeli Air Force yesterday took part in an aerial military exercise organised by Greece alongside the US, Italy, the UK, Cyprus and the UAE. Israeli Air Force F-16’s participated in “Iniohos,” an annual exercise that resembles a complex, multi-threat combat environment to maximise the operational readiness of an air force. The organisers of the exercise circulated video footage of the aerial equipment, including Israeli F-16s.
In spite of the two countries having no official diplomatic relations, this is not the first time the UAE has taken part in military exercises with Israel. The IAF took part in the Red Flag aerial exercise in the US in March 2017 alongside the UAE and Pakistan.