Israel-bound flight crosses Saudi Arabia airspace for first time

Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace for the first time to an Israel-bound passenger plane, breaking a 70-year-ban on commercial jets overflying the Arab kingdom to reach the Jewish state. While Riyadh does not formally recognise Israel, 22 March 2018 night’s touchdown by the Air India flight in Tel Aviv signalled a thawing of relations between the two states that share a common enemy, Iran.

There was no confirmation that other airlines, including the Israeli flagship carrier El Al, whose planes have to swoop under the Gulf and fly up the Red Sea, will be granted airspace access. Avoiding Saudi Arabia typically adds hours to Israel-bound flights. Riyadh has not yet formally acknowledged granting overflight rights, but aircraft trackers show the jet crossed its territory.

Air India 139 took off from New Delhi, and the Boeing Dreamliner flew over the kingdom for three hours, passing just to the west of the Saudi capital, according to the Flightradar24 monitoring app. Tracking showed the airliner had earlier flown over Oman, which also does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel. In his first foreign presidential trip, Donald Trump flew from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Air Force One.

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