Air India’s inaugural flight to Israel took off from New Delhi on Thursday morning with the 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying over Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states, countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. The flight made history and landed shortly after 10 P.M.
Overflying Saudi Arabia considerably shortened flight times between Israel and India. The maiden flight, Air India 139, departed New Delhi at 6 P.M. Indian time Thursday and was due to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport at 9:45 P.M. Israel time, according to the Air India website. Earlier this month the company said it planned to fly the Delhi-Tel Aviv route three times a week.
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 the following January in India. The ministry said the route would also lower fares and boost investment and tourism from India to Israel.
El Al flies four weekly flights to Mumbai, but these take seven hours rather than five as they fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace.
El Al has appealed to the United Nations over a bid to reroute its services between Tel Aviv and India through Saudi airspace as well. El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization that it would be discriminatory for the Saudis to let Air India enter its airspace and not El Al.
Reuters contributed to this report