Saudi Arabia to Allow Israel-UAE Flights Through Its Airspace
Flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will be able to fly over Saudi Arabia after the kingdom on Wednesday said all services to and from the UAE can cross its airspace.
Saudi Arabia mostly bans flights to and from Israel from using its airspace, though since 2018 it has permitted Air India to fly over the country to Tel Aviv.
The decision, which the kingdom’s aviation authority said came at the request of the UAE, follows a historic agreement last month between Abu Dhabi and Israel to normalize ties.
All flights to and from the UAE can use Saudi airspace, a Saudi state news agency reported, citing the aviation authority, without mentioning Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without citing Saudi Arabia, said Israeli planes could fly directly to the UAE, tracing the flight path on a map with his finger over the kingdom.
“For years, I have been working to open the skies between Israel and the East. It was spectacular news two-and-a-half years ago when Air India received approval to fly directly to Israel,” Netanyahu stated.
He continued, “Now there is another tremendous breakthrough: Israeli planes and those from all countries will be able to fly directly from Israel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and back. Flights will be cheaper and shorter, and it will lead to robust tourism and develop our economy.”
“It will do one other thing: It will open up the East,” Netanyahu noted. “When you fly to Thailand or anywhere else in Asia, it will save time and money. This is amazing news for you, the citizens of Israel.”
He concluded, “These are the benefits of a peace that is genuine. I want to thank [senior US official] Jared Kushner and [Abu Dhabi Crown Prince] Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for today’s important contribution. There will be a great deal more good news to come.”
The Saudi decision will cut flying time between the Middle East states by several hours.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said shortly after the airspace report that the kingdom’s position in support of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital had not changed.
Emirati and Israeli officials will allow their citizens to visit each other’s countries once they normalize ties and have said there would be direct service.
Those traveling from Israel will gain better access to hundreds of global destinations via Abu Dhabi and Dubai hubs once flights launch.
Israel‘s El Al this week flew through Saudi airspace carrying US and Israeli delegations from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, the first official flight by an Israeli carrier over the kingdom. The return flight also used Saudi airspace.