Air India’s maiden flight to Israel has landed in Tel Aviv, reducing the travel time substantially after Saudi Arabia for the first time allowed a commercial flight to use its airspace, indicating a thaw in relations between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state.
Heralding a new beginning in the people-to-people contact and diplomatic ties between India and Israel, the state-run Air India introduced the direct thrice-a-week flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv yesterday.
Saudi Arabia permitted the airline to use its airspace, enabling it to take a shorter route, covering the distance in 7.25 hours, about 2.10 hours less as compared to the only other airline that flies between the two countries — Israel’s national carrier El Al.
The Air India flew over Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to reach Israel.
Signalling new relationships ::
Flight AI 139 landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport at 2215 PM (Israeli time) yesterday, heralding a new chapter in the India-Israel ties and ending a decades-old overfly ban by Saudi Arabia.
“This is really a historical moment… We are in a new era. I am sure that we will see many more Indian tourists coming to Israel… and Israelis would also come to India in much higher numbers,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said.
Wave your flags ::
He said such a direct link would further strengthen the relationship between the two nations.
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 then in January in India, Haaretz newspaper reported.
Low fare flight ::
The ministry said the route would also lower fares and boost investment and tourism from India to Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to permit Air India to use its airspace has enabled the airline to take a shorter route.
Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to that country.
Flight details ::
The flight will operate every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. While the inaugural flight AI 139 left at 6 pm IST yesterday, the scheduled departure will be 4.50 pm IST from March 25 when the summer schedule comes into operation.
The state-run carrier will be operating its 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route.
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (C) poses for a picture along with the Air India flight staff, during a ceremony marking the arrival of an Air India Boeing 787 plane at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel.
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