In what is being seen as a landmark aviation move, Air India is now the first international airline to use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel. The national carrier launches a new service from New Delhi to Tel Aviv starting on March 22, which promises to make the Holy Land more accessible and welcoming to Indian travellers. By Bikram Bindra
Historic relations between Saudi Arabia (and indeed most of the Arab world) with Israel have been strained or indifferent at best, causing flights stemming from the other side of the Arabian Peninsula to take long winding detours to reach Tel Aviv. This is soon set to change, with stronger than ever Indo-Israel ties enabling tourism to take new flight. The Israeli Prime Minister recently announced that Saudi Arabia had final allowed India to fly over it to get to Israel, and Air India has wasted no time to leverage this significant announcement.
Starting March 22, the airline will fly three times a week from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, flying over Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to reach Israel in seven hours, the fastest air route between the two countries. It plans to deploy a 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on this new route. The inaugural flight (AI 139) will take off from New Delhi at 18:00 hrs on March 22 and arrive at Tel Aviv at 21:45 hrs. The return flight (AI 140) will depart from Tel Aviv at 23:15 hrs and reach New Delhi at 10:00 hrs. However, from April 1, the flight will depart New Delhi at 16:50 hrs and Tel Aviv at 23:15 hrs, as per Air India reports.
A quick scan of the airline’s website shows options to book flights to Tel Aviv from New Delhi starting on that date, with fares starting at INR 24,124. Seen as a welcome move by the tourism industry and eager travellers, this flight reduces both the time and cost to fly to Israel, and will boost number of tourists flying between both countries.