Direct flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace for the first time

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Air India to Israel route takes off tomorrow for the first time

He added such a direct link would further reinforce the ties between the two nations.

Both countries - Israel and India - have come closer in recent months as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Israel in July past year, becoming the first Indian premier to set foot in the Jewish state. The denial comes after some reports indicated that InterGlobe Aviation-run IndiGo and Qatar Airways might jointly bid for Air India.

The flight is the "first civilian connection with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states", he said. This is really a first step - a very important one...

Many other carriers must still divert around Saudi Arabia when trying to reach Israel.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Singapore Airlines and a Filipino airline were exploring the introduction of flights to and from Tel Aviv overflying Saudi Arabia.

He said the initiative would strengthen the relationship between the two countries in various spheres, including political, trade and cultural.

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"This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work", Levin said in a radio interview.

The Government is wanting to execute the disinvestment procedure of the pained Air India group in stages, and separate expressions of interest (EoIs) will be issued for every entity under the company. The inaugural flight will leave at 6:10 PM and the scheduled departure will be at 4:50 PM from 25 March when the summer schedule will come into operation. Last year, the low-priced carrier IndiGo had sent formal expression of interest to buy Air India's worldwide operations.

Israel's flag carrier El Al, excluded from the Saudi route, says its Indian competitor now has an unfair advantage.

In November, a woman passenger had slapped an Air India duty manager at the Indira Gandhi International Airport after the former was denied boarding over late reporting.

And during a January visit to India, Netanyahu asserted that the new air route over Saudi territory would drastically reduce flight time.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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