March 22, 2018 / 5:04 PM / 4 months ago

Air India flight to Tel Aviv flies over Saudi Arabia -Flightradar

DUBAI, March 22 (Reuters) - The inaugural Air India flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv was flying over Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, according to the Flightradar monitoring website, ending a 70-year overflight ban.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and the usage of its airspace for the route could reflect a thawing of ties between Israel and the Gulf Arab state, both close U.S. allies.

Air India flight 139 was flying over Saudi Arabia at 1645 GMT, according to Flightradar.

Saudi officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Its civil aviation authority on Feb. 7 denied Israeli media reports that it had granted Air India permission for the route.

Air India said on March 7 that it had received the necessary approvals from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have not commented on the matter since.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Singapore Airlines and a Filipino airline were exploring the introduction of flights to and from Tel Aviv overflying Saudi Arabia. Singapore Airlines did not immediately comment.

The Air India flight departed New Delhi at 1227 GMT on Thursday and is expected to arrive in Tel Aviv at 1952 GMT, according to the latest information on the airline’s website.

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

Air India has said its flight would be two hours shorter than El Al Israel Airlines’ flight to Mumbai from Tel Aviv, which uses a route south towards Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace.

El Al has asked industry group IATA to help it access Saudi Arabia’s airspace. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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