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Israeli Airlines Prodding Saudi Arabia to Allow Overflights

Jul 17, 2022

On Saturday evening, a report showed that Israeli airlines have asked to use the skies of Saudi Arabia for their flights as early as this week. This was after Riyadh announced that overflights would be permitted over their territory.

Flight times’ reduction

Arkia and El Al have both asked Saudi Arabia to reroute their flights to locations in the Far East that are scheduled for this week. This includes flights to Goa in India and Bangkok in Thailand, which would be helpful in reducing the time of the flights by almost three hours. The report indicated that Riyadh had not yet responded to the request from the airlines.

Saudi Arabia made the announcement on Friday about allowing civilian overflights to have access to their airspace. This move is regarded as part of the brokered efforts of the United States to normalize ties between Riyadh and Jerusalem. The announcement was made while US President Joe Biden was on his visit to Israel, hours before he departed for Saudi Arabia to meet its leaders.

Biden responds

The US President met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi King Salman on Friday. After the meeting late Friday night Biden gave a speech in which he said that this decision from Riyadh was a big one, not just symbolically, but also substantively. He declared it as the first tangible step taken for what he hopes would be normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The move was also welcomed by Yair Lapid, the Prime Minister of Israel, who said that it was the first official step that could result in normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia and he thanked the leadership for opening their airspace. But, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, said on Saturday that their decision did not have anything to do with their diplomatic ties with Israel.

Connectivity between countries

He said that they had taken the decision of overflights for providing countries globally with connectivity and hope to help make the lives of travelers easier. As the kingdom does not recognize Israel, the flights from Tel Aviv to East Asia had to travel longer by two to three hours, as they had to go around the Arabian Peninsula.

Oz Berlovitch, the chief executive or Arkia, predicted that the flights to the East would see their costs reduce by almost 10%, thanks to the reduced flight times. This includes flights to Thailand and India. Those who travel to Bangkok from Israel would have their flights reduced from 100 hours to about 8 hours and 25 minutes. Meanwhile, flights to Mumbai would come down from 8 hours to 5 hours and 15 minutes.

The new flight routes would also travel  Oman, another country that does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and does not allow its airspace to be used. However, it is expected to change its stance, just like Saudi Arabia. If airlines decide so, they can also use the Saudi airspace to take flights to Maldives and Melbourne, Australia.

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