Saudi Arabia denies reports of permission to use airspace for travel to Israel


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Saudi Arabia is denying reports in Israel that it gave permission to use its airspace for flights between Israel and India.

Israeli news outlets reported Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has granted Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace. Flying through Saudi airspace would knock more than two hours off the time of the flight.

Saudi airspace is closed to any airline that flies to Israel, according to Haaretz. Permission for the Air India route could be the first public expression of the warming of ties between Israel and the Saudis.

El Al, Israel’s national airline, offers direct flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai, but avoids Saudi airspace by flying over the Red Sea, past Yemen and around the Arabian Peninsula.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said the agency had not given its permission to Air India to use its airspace to fly to Israel.

A spokesman for Air India also told Reuters that the airline is still waiting for the Indian aviation regulator to approve the route.

The report came as Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on an official visit, Reuters reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India last month.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations.

Recommended from JTA