After Riyadh said last month that it will open its airspace to all airlines, opening the way for more overflights to and from Israel, aviation data indicated on Thursday that Cathay Pacific and Air Seychelles had overflew Saudi Arabia for Israel flights for the first time.
During his visit to the two countries last month, U.S. President Joe Biden made opening Saudi airspace to flights to and from Israel a priority. Principle-wise, Riyadh concurred. Israel stated that it might take weeks or longer to implement.
With the flight from Tel Aviv to Mahe on Wednesday evening, Air Seychelles stated it ‘became the first airline to get clearance from Saudi Arabian authorities to overfly their land.’
According to a statement, the new route ‘means a reduction in fuel use of 500kg-1000kg every flight (and that) the aircraft can now carry an additional 20 people per journey.’
‘The Saudi air traffic controllers were really helpful and allowed us to navigate with best conditions for passenger comfort,’ the flight’s captain said, according to the airline.
Prior to Biden’s trip, only Air India was authorised to utilise Saudi airspace for Tel Aviv trips that did not begin or stop in the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain thanks to an exception that Riyadh gave to New Delhi.
Israeli carriers would be able to reduce time and costs on routes to Asia that currently had to bypass Saudi Arabia’s airspace if Saudi Arabia’s skies were officially opened to Israel.
According to Biden, the opening of Saudi airspace to all aircraft travelling to and from Israel might foster further ties between Israel and the region, particularly Saudi Arabia.
El Al Israel Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier, expressed its desire for Saudi Arabia to soon implement unrestricted overflight rights.
According to flightradar24, an El Al flight on Wednesday from Tel Aviv to Bangkok avoided Saudi Arabia by flying over the Red Sea.
Merav Michaeli, Israel’s minister of transportation, said mediation was still necessary in implementation-related talks with Riyadh.
‘Regrettably, there are now no diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. As a result, this issue is not being handled directly through interactions amongst the civic authorities,’ Michaeli said to 103 FM in Tel Aviv.