Tel Aviv: Using Saudi Arabia’s air space, Air India’s maiden flight to Israel landed in Tel Aviv on Friday.
Heralding a new beginning in the people-to-people contact and diplomatic ties between India and Israel, the state-run Air India introduced the direct thrice-a-week flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv yesterday.
Saudi Arabia permitted the airline to use its airspace, enabling it to take a shorter route, covering the distance in 7.25 hours, about 2.10 hours less as compared to the only other airline that flies between the two countries — Israel’s national carrier El Al.
Flight AI 139 landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport at 2215 PM (Israeli time) yesterday, heralding a new chapter in the India-Israel ties and ending a decades-old overfly ban by Saudi Arabia.
“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 PTI.
He said such a direct link would further strengthen the relationship between the two nations.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Israel considers the new route important, noting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the matter of the route with his counterpart Narendra Modi when the two met in July in Israel and then in January in India, Haaretz newspaper reported.
The ministry said the route would also lower fares and boost investment and tourism from India to Israel.