First public Israeli flight lands in Saudi Arabia

Prior to the opening of Saudi airspace, El Al’s planes had to follow a long, winding route to Mumbai in order to avoid Saudi airspace.

El Al Boeing 777 258 ER (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
El Al Boeing 777 258 ER
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An Israeli private jet landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning, per KAN news, marking the first time a public flight from Israel has ever landed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The news comes just a day after the first flight from Saudi Arabia landed in Israel, as an Emirati 737 Royal Jet landed in Ben-Gurion airport Monday evening.

This is the latest among improving regional ties for Israel: agreements to normalize ties with four nations — UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan —  Have been realized since the 2020 Abraham Accords.

While there remain no commercial flights between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as the two states share no official relations, the flights are a considerable advancement in Saudi-Israeli relations, as both nations finally opened their airspaces to each other just last year.

Surrounded by nations that have clashed with Israel in the past, free air travel is not something that is taken for granted in Israel. Along the 2020 normalization of ties with Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and the UAE was the opening of airspaces to Israeli flights, along with announcements of direct flights to Dubai, Morocco, and Bahrain.

United Arab Emirates delegates wave to the departing El Al plane at the end of IsraelUAE normalization talks in Abu Dhabi on September 1 (credit: EL AL)United Arab Emirates delegates wave to the departing El Al plane at the end of IsraelUAE normalization talks in Abu Dhabi on September 1 (credit: EL AL)

Prior to the opening of Saudi airspace, El Al’s planes had to follow a long, winding route to Mumbai in order to avoid Saudi airspace, adding roughly two hours to the trip from Tel Aviv and putting the Israeli carrier at a huge disadvantage to competitors, who are allowed to fly direct. Similar examples make flights to some locales out of Ben-Gurion difficult to navigate and potentially dangerous.

Airspace has always been a point of contention amongst Israel and its adversaries. The following countries continue to ban both direct flights and overflying traffic to/from Israel: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.