Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Saudi Arabia has allowed Tel Aviv-bound Indian flag carrier Air India the overflight rights over its territory, Israeli media and agencies reported.
"When Air India begins direct flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv in the coming weeks, it will take about as long to fly to the Indian capital as it currently takes to fly to London, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday," The Jerusalem Post said, quoting Netanyahu in its report datelined Washington.
According to the Post, at a briefing with reporters after his meeting with US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said that "Air India signed an agreement that day enabling the flights to and from Israel over Saudi Arabia."
There was no immediate confirmation of this from Riyadh or Air India.
However, Netanyahu also added that the Saudis did not grant overfly permission to El Al Israel Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel, which operates four weekly flights to Mumbai. "Since their flights will now take longer and be more expensive, as the planes consume more fuel because they fly a longer, more circuitous route, he is in talks with the national carrier to ensure that it does not get hurt economically. He did not elaborate, though it seems he was hinting at subsidies," the Post said.
So far, Riyadh does not allow flights connecting Israel over Saudi Arabia. If implemented, the new route over Saudi Arabia will cut down the flying time to India from some eight hours to about five-and-a-half.