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Israel’s national airline, El Al, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, filing suit in seeking to stop Air India from taking a shorter path on its nonstop flight from New Delhi (DEL) to Tel Aviv (TLV) through Saudi airspace.
Air India recently made history on the route as the first commercial airline to fly through Saudi airspace to Israel. Meanwhile, El Al is still prohibited from flying over Saudi Arabia, a shortcut that slashes two hours from the flight time and means less fuel and cheaper airfare.
Because it must still use the roundabout route, El Al predicts it will see major financial losses as it tries to compete with Air India’s less expensive and more direct path on the nonstop flight. So, the airline is suing the government of Israel, the nation’s Civil Aviation Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
El Al wants the court to stop Air India from flying the shorter route until the Israeli carrier can obtain permission to fly the more direct path through Saudi airspace, too. The Israeli carrier says Air India now has an unfair advantage that violates fair competition policies.
For many years, Saudi Arabia has banned Israel-bound aircraft from using its airspace. The two countries have long had a tense adversarial standoff and do not have formal diplomatic relations. In addition to Saudi Arabia, El Al has no-fly zones over wide swaths of North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia, which means many of the airline’s routes in those regions have an intricate web of detours.
Yisrael Katz, the transportation minister, called Air India’s flight through Saudi airspace a “positive change” and said he hoped El Al would be able to use the route in the “not so distant future,” but it still remains unclear when that would be.
The first Air India direct flight to Israel through Saudi airspace reflects the positive change which is gradually taking place in the region. I hope that in the not so distant future Israeli carriers like El Al will also be allowed to use this route. pic.twitter.com/T0i9xXfe5a
— ישראל כץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) March 23, 2018
Air India was just granted permission to use Saudi airspace on the route, and its first flight over the country was last week.
H/T: The New York Times
Featured image by TPG‘s Nick Ellis.
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