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Air India's direct flight to Israel begins today

Air India's direct flight to Israel begins today

We are in a new era, ' said Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin, who spoke to the press in terms of strengthening and rekindling India-Israel relationships.

The passage of a plane over Saudi Arabia en route to Israel marks the end of a 70-year overflight ban.

Netanyahu first suggested in January that the route could pass over Saudi Arabia but Riyadh has no official ties with Tel Aviv and Israel's national carrier El Al now takes a detour over the Red Sea on its India service to avoid Saudi and Iranian airspace.

The flight will operate thrice-a-week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and will cover the distance in around seven hours - making it the fastest air- connectivity from India to Israel.

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.

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Air India Chairman Pradeep Singh Kharola and the Director of Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) Hassan Madah started this new journey by cutting a symbolic cake at the inauguration ceremony.

On more than one occasion, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that Israel's relations with the Arab world are now better than ever. Officials from Oman, which also does not recognise Israel, could not be reached for comment.

Air India on Thursday launched the first scheduled service to Israel to be allowed to cross Saudi airspace.

Israel and Saudi Arabia do not really have any official diplomatic relations and the latter also doesn't recognize Israel. Last year, the low-priced carrier IndiGo had sent formal expression of interest to buy Air India's worldwide operations. A spokeswoman for El Al confirmed the company intends to bring its complaint to the Supreme Court, but would not give any further details. It is still unknown whether Israeli airliners can use the airspace of the Gulf state or not.

And the company has asked an airline industry lobby group, the International Air Transport Association, to help it access Saudi airspace.

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