Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Air India Launches Direct Five-Hour Flights Between Delhi and Tel Aviv

Airplane Airplane Flash 90
Melinda Barton | 07 March, 2018, 21:16

The national carrier had planned to launch the service in May previous year, but it couldn't materialise after some countries denied use of their airspaces for flights to Israel.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the airspace ban for El Al would offer further evidence of what appears to be thawing of ties.

Air India is launching a new flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, starting on March 22, and has been given permission to use the skies over Saudi Arabia, an Air India spokesperson told CNN.

El Al flies to Mumbai four times a week, along a route over Ethiopia and then east to India that, by avoiding Saudi airspace, has a journey time of seven hours rather than five.

"Air India will gain a significant and unfair advantage over El Al with respect to flights between Israel and India", CEO Gonen Usishkin said in the letter.

Tickets for the new route went on sale shortly after the announcement Wednesday, reported the Times of Israel. This route, too, is covered in 7 hours and 10 minutes.

Israel's national carrier El Al now operates an India service that takes a detour over the Red Sea to avoid flying over Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Air India received a grant of $925,000 (NIS 3.2 million) from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in order to operate three weekly flights on the new route, the ministry told Ynet News on Wednesday. On its return leg, the plane will depart from Tel Aviv at 10.15 pm and land in Delhi at 9 am the day after, according to a statement from Air India.

The new route was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last July, with Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu first suggesting in January the route could pass over Saudi Arabia.