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Air India's Tel Aviv flight over Saudi airspace reflects new image of India: Suresh Prabhu

Suresh Prabhu also said a plan is under formulation to promote smooth movement of cargo through air route.

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Air India's Tel Aviv flight over Saudi airspace reflects new image of India: Suresh Prabhu
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Saudi Arabia's decision allowing Air India to use its airspace for flights to Israel from New Delhi shows the "new image and reality" of India, Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu today said.

"Saudi Arabia has allowed the first ever flight of Air India (from New Delhi) to Tel Aviv, Israel over its airspace. It has never happened. So what it shows is the new image and reality of India," he said here at a function.

The direct maiden flight to Tel Aviv heralded a new chapter in the India-Israel ties and ended decades-old overfly ban by Saudi Arabia.

Flight AI 139 landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport at 2215 (Israeli time) yesterday.

Saudi Arabia's decision to permit Air India to use its airspace has enabled the airline to take a shorter route.
 

Prabhu also said a plan is under formulation to promote smooth movement of cargo through air route. 


"This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work," Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in a radio interview, adding that using Saudi airspace cut travel time to India by around two hours and would reduce ticket prices.

Saudi Arabia - birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines - does not recognise Israel.

Riyadh has not formally confirmed granting the Air India plane overflight rights. While the move ended a 70-year-old ban on planes flying to or from Israel through Saudi airspace, there is as yet no indication that it will be applied for any Israeli airline.

The Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner entered Saudi airspace at around 1645 GMT and overflew the kingdom at 40,000 feet for about three hours, coming within 60 km (37 miles) of the capital Riyadh, according to the Flightradar monitoring app. It then crossed over Jordan and the occupied West Bank into Israel.

The airliner had earlier flown over Oman, according to Flightradar. Officials from Oman, which also does not recognise Israel, could not be reached for comment.

Israel's flag carrier El Al, excluded from the Saudi route, says its Indian competitor now has an unfair advantage.

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