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

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

Direct flights between Tel Aviv and Delhi are set to take place on March 22nd with reported permission granted for the route to pass through Saudi Arabian airspace, Air India announced on Wednesday in a historic first.

For the first time ever, an global airline can use Saudi airspace to fly to Israel.

India's national carrier Air India on Wednesday began selling direct five-hour flights between Delhi and Israel's Ben-Gurion global airport.

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Netanyahu said on Monday that Saudi Arabia had granted Air India permission to fly over its territory on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv, but there was no confirmation from either Saudi Arabia or Air India.

After a flurry of media reports sourced to the Indian carrier last month, Saudi Arabia's civil aviation authority denied having made any agreement with Air India on overflight rights for its new Delhi-Tel Aviv service.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and lifting the airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom.

Netanyahu said that Saudi Arabia has not granted overfly permission to Israeli national carrier El Al, which operates four weekly flights to Mumbai. This route, too, is covered in 7 hours and 10 minutes.

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"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. "The flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays". It will depart from New Delhi at 4.50 pm and arrive in Tel Aviv at 8.25 pm.

"The Times of India" reports that Air India will use Boeing 787 Dreamliners for the route with 18 seats in business class and 238 seats in economy class.

During a visit to Israel in July last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said direct flights would be launched between Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv and the plan gathered steam following Netanyahu's visit to India in January this year.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and India are parties to the convention.

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