Saudi Arabia: green light for overflights

An El Al airline plane at the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport on August 17, 2016. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday confirmed it would open its airspace to all flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, following El Al airline’s historic roundtrip to Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

A source from Saudi Arabia’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GACA) told the Walla agency on September 2, 2020, that the kingdom « will respond positively to requests made by the UAE authorities to authorize overflights to all airports. country ”. Israel is not explicitly cited in the report, as its existence is not formally recognized by Riyadh, but it is the only country facing the closure of Saudi airspace for inbound or outbound flights – outside the blockade of Qatar and its national carrier Qatar Airways.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu hailed the move, although no request has been made for new routes between Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion and Abu Dhabi Airport, or Dubai Airport. But Etihad Airways has already appointed TAL Aviation Group to represent it in the country, as the UAE government lifted the ban on doing business with Israeli citizens.

So far, only Air India had obtained an overflight right from Saudi Arabia to serve Tel Aviv; all others are forced to bypass the country to serve or leave Israel.

An El Al Boeing 737-900ER operated a roundtrip between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on Monday and Tuesday, marking the « first commercial flight » in history between the two countries – even though it only carried delegations American and Israeli. For the record, the rotation had El Al’s oldest flight attendant, Hedva Opatovsky, onboard; at 62, she retired after 46 years of loyal service with the airline.

The Israel-UAE normalization agreement, concluded under the aegis of the United States, is the third signed by Israel with an Arab country since its creation in 1948, after those concerning Egypt and Jordan.

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