For the first time, Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow direct flights to Israel to pass over its territory. India Air proposed the flight route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv and received the surprising approval from Riyadh last week. The flights will begin next month.

Air India plane

Air India plane

India Air announced on Wednesday that it will launch a new direct New Delhi-Tel Aviv flight route that passes over Saudi Arabia in March. The news about the new route comes a few weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India and signed a number of agreements with New Delhi.

The total flight time is expected to be about five hours. The duration of the current direct flights between the two destinations is about two hours longer than the expected new flight time. The tickets for the flights over Saudi Arabia will be sold at a cheaper rate because the airline will be able to reduce fuel costs.

Kann’s Sharon Idan reported that the Saudi authorities approved Air India’s request last week after the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel denied the airline’s proposal to inaugurate a flight route that passes over Afghanistan and Iran. This is the first time that Riyadh has authorized a direct flight route to Israel via its airspace. The inaugural Air India New Delhi-Tel Aviv flight is slated for March 18.

According to Israel News Company, Israel has confirmed the report about the new flight route but did not comment on Saudi Arabia’s historic decision that made it possible.

“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.”