Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Saudi Arabia had granted Air India permission to fly over its territory on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv.
There was no immediate confirmation 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 recognize 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 over Saudi soil, 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.
India has been keen to map out speedier flight routes in Saudi skies to reduce the journey duration by around two hours by enabling it to fly west without the need take roundabout routes, thereby slashing costs on fuel and significantly increasing the number of tourists flying between Israel and India.
In addition, the new route would enable the airline to dramatically reduce the price of flight tickets and simultaneously stimulate competition among other airlines.
No rookie to the economic hardships involved in the current flight routes available between New Delhi and Ben Gurion Airport, Air India announced 20 years ago that it would be terminating its flights to Israel due to lack of profitability. If given the green light by the Saudis, Air India Boeing 787 planes would once again be landing on and taking off from Ben Gurion’s runways.
Itamar Eichner contributed to this report.