by Mara Vigevani
Following Air India’s launch last month of direct service from Tel Aviv to Delhi crossing over Saudi Arabia, airlines from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and a low-cost Indian carrier have requested permission from Saudi authorities for crossover rights for flights to Israel, Israel’s Kan public broadcasting corporation reported Tuesday.
By flying over Saudi Arabia, Air India was able to shave approximately three hours off its flight time in comparison to Israel’s national carrier, El Al, which is forced to fly a more circuitous route in order to avoid Arab countries that refuse to grant Israel flyover permission.
El Al officials have also asked Saudi officials to grant flyover permission, and have also asked the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to intervene to on the airline’s behalf with Saudi officials. However, the officials said the request is likely to be denied.
El Al also petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to block Air India from using Saudi airspace as long as Israeli airlines are not granted the same right.
The Transportation Ministry said in response to the petition that while permission to fly over Saudi Arabia on the way to Israel is a major political achievement, the ministry would also work to ensure fair competition conditions for El Al. “The government of Israel has a responsibility to ensure that El Al is not harmed as a result of this important step,” the ministry said.