RIYADH – The civil aviation authority of Saudi Arabia has denied any authorization for flights between India and Israel using its airspace.
A spokesman for the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia said the no authority has given permission to Air India, the AlArabiya reported on Wednesday.
The clarification comes two days after Air India announced that it plans to start direct flights to Israel and has proposed to travel through closed Saudi airspace.
A spokesman for Air India said the state-owned carrier had ordered three flights a week between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. He added that the Indian airlines are waiting for approval to cross Saudi airspace in those flights.
Israeli airlines El Al currently operates four flights a week to Mumbai, but takes seven hours instead of five because they take a southern route towards Ethiopia and then east to India, where they cannot cross Saudi airspace.
The airline said its maiden flight 139 took off from New Delhi on Thursday and landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv after flying over the Islamic kingdom, heralding a new shift in diplomatic policy of Riyadh that does not recognise Israel as a state.
“This is really a historical moment…We are in a new era. I am sure that we will see many more Indian tourists coming to Israel…and Israelis would also come to India in much higher numbers,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told Press Trust of India.
According to the airline, the flight “will operate every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday”.