An Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane lands at the Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
DUBAI - The inaugural Air India flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv flew over Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, according to the Flightradar monitoring website, ending a 70-year overflight ban. The flight is set to land in Tel Aviv Thursday evening where the passengers will be greeted by Culture Minister Yariv Levin.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize 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 US allies.
Air India flight 139 flew over Saudi Arabia at 1645 GMT, according to Flightradar.
Saudi officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Its civil aviation authority on February 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 recognize 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.