Air India gets nod to fly Tel Aviv via Saudi Arabian airspace

Air India flights from India to Israel have been given permission to fly over Saudi Arabia on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Monday.

"Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel.

Netanyahu's confirmation comes nearly a month after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz first reported the development. Sources from within Air India had confirmed that permission to use Saudi airspace for flights to Israel was coming soon.

There was no immediate confirmation of Monday's development from either Saudi officials or Air India. Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing in Washington to Israeli reporters after he had met US President Donald Trump.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom, both US allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.

Last month, Air India announced the planned thrice-weekly flights to Tel Aviv through Saudi airspace, but the General Authority of Civil Aviation in Riyadh said at the time it had not granted such permission to the carrier.

El Al Israel Airlines, the country's flag carrier, flies four weekly flights to Mumbai.

These take seven hours as they fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace. Israel media have said that Saudi overflight routes could reduce travel time by more than two hours.