El Al has asked an international airline association for help in its attempts to be granted access to Saudi Arabian airspace. The move came amid Air India’s planned Tel Aviv-New Delhi route that would end a 70-year Saudi ban on flights to and from Israel passing through its airspace.

El Al plane at Ben-Gurion Airport

El Al plane at Ben-Gurion Airport Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90

Israel’s main flight carrier El Al has turned to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for help in receiving access to Saudi Arabian airspace. The access would enable the carrier to compete with Air India’s upcoming Israel-India flight route.

IATA is a trade association of the world’s airlines and includes about 270 airlines from 120 countries. According to Reuters, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin sent a letter on Wednesday requesting IATA to step in so as to prevent discrimination and “an uneven playing field.” Usishkin has also reportedly requested the help of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia has banned all flights to and from Israel from entering its airspace. As previously reported by JOL, after Air India announced the launch of new direct New Delhi-Tel Aviv flight route that would pass over Saudi Arabia, El Al officials expressed their hopes that a similar agreement would apply to the Israeli carrier. 

“We at El Al and at the other Israeli airlines hope that this agreement to fly over Saudi Arabia also applies to the Israeli airlines and not just the foreign ones,” a senior El Al official stated. “We don’t see a difference between the Israeli passengers of Israeli companies and the Israeli passengers of non-Israeli companies.”